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Written by Chris Mayo   
Wednesday, 01 May 2019

SEVERED CINEMA REVIEW OF HOUSE OF FLESH MANNEQUINS

Severed Cinema review of House of Flesh Mannequins

AKA: Museum of Flesh Mannequins
Directed by: Domiziano Cristopharo
Written by: Domiziano Cristopharo
Produced by: Domiziano Cristopharo, Daniele Panizza, Domiziano Arcangeli, Aaron Benore
Cinematography by: Mirco Sgarzi
Editing by: Alessandro Giordani
Music by: Kristian Sensini
Special Effects by: Federico Carretti, Dr. de Mentia, Michael Del Rossa, Ericka N. Hanger, Alessandra Romani
Cast: Domiziano Arcangeli, Irena Violette, Giovanni Lombardo Radice, Randal Malone, Jay Creepy, Poison Rouge, Roberta Gemma, Hal Alpert
Year:
Country: Italy, USA
Language: English
Color: Color
Runtime: 1h 45min

Studios: Empire Films
Distributor: TetroVideo

Sebastian was the shaking leaf upon a branch that I broke from a withering tree.

By now, Severed Cinema readers are quite seasoned with one particular filmmaking powerhouse out of Italy. That force is, filmmaker/producer Domiziano Cristopharo. The man that has produced and directed such Severed Cinema favourites as Deep Web XXX, A Taste of Phobia, and Xpiation, had his directorial debut with this very film, House of Flesh Mannequins, back in 2009. The film was marred with complications from the beginning; from the content of the film, actors not showing up, to the art director/costume designer fleeing with $20,000 of the budget. Additionally, due to laws in some US states, the producers re-filmed almost half the movie (for more info read Jay Creepy’s interview with Domiziano Cristopharo here). What you saw in 2009 was not Cristopharo’s preliminary vision. What he presents today is the re-edited House of Flesh Mannequins you were meant to see.

The film, said to be based on a true story, is split into three acts which follow the life of our protagonist, Sebastian Rhys (Domiziano Arcangeli). Sebastian is a reclusive artist, tormented by his abnormal and abusive childhood, as well as his sordid occupation of death photographer. Throughout his childhood he was mistreated and abused -- it all relentlessly recorded by his father, a voyeur, obsessed with documenting every moment of his adolescence. Now, as a man, Sebastian leads a prurient life, working as a photographer for ringleader, Mr. Cannoluti (Randal Malone), who operates an underground snuff, extreme BDSM, and child pornography ring. Constantly haunted by visions from his childhood and the depraved acts he has observed and photographed over the years, he is a truly broken soul.

Sebastian also owns an apartment building, where he doubles as both tenant and superintendent. Then one day a new tenant, a young woman named Sarah Roeg (Irena Violette), takes an interest in Sebastian and his work, and the two begin a relationship with one another. Sarah, moved to the building after the death of her mother and brother, and lives with her ill father, played eccentrically by genre titan Giovanni Lombardo Radice (Cannibal Ferox, House on the Edge of the Park). She spends her time caring for him whilst juggling her newly formed relationship, which ultimately culminates in catastrophe.

House of Flesh Mannequins is an amalgam of cinematic formulas and styles, masterfully blending horrific exhibitions, surrealism, and arthouse sensibilities. The film is truly graceful in its execution of cinematography, lighting, and atmosphere. While the film contains an abundance of beautiful shots and imagery, it equally forces the viewer to bear whiteness to some extreme acts (including hard core sex from adult performers and even real life body mutilation from BDSM performers), juxtaposing the visuals perfectly.

There are also several meanings, and nods to other films, and cinematic styles contained herein. Peppering of Fulci and Argento’s style can be found, as well as the early works of David Lynch. One nod in particular goes to Michael Powell’s voyeuristic Peeping Tom, whose poster even shows up in the background of one particular scene. The meanings thrown around can be rather subjective to every individual, and grow clearer upon repeat viewings. In one scene the theme of the film becomes clear, that we as a society are obsessed with peering into the lives of others, whether it be reality TV or celebrities, and the ugliness inherently within us all.

In this aforementioned scene we meet Mr. Cannoluti, Sebastian’s boss (who runs a magazine stand as a façade for his misanthropic enterprise. When meeting up with Mr. Cannoluti, he tells Sebastian, “There are a couple of things I want to ask you. What scenes are we most often forced to watch on TV?” “Murders, accidents… general violence,” answers Sebastian. "Yes,” Cannoluti retorts, “but it’s not exactly the answer I was expecting from you.” “So you are referring to the abundance of images of talentless young people wearing next to nothing. – Is that what you were thinking of Mr. Cannoluti?” postures Sebastian. “Exactly. Television is the best example of what a sick society we have become. People who have lost the connection with each other. A society interested only in, corruption, voyeurism, sex addicted. So if we are to consider both of your answers, we must remember that.

Back to the depravity and violent sexual acts showcased here. In one sequence Sebastian goes to a building, the House of Flesh Mannequins, which contains dungeonesque rooms with large submarine-like windows looking in. Children can be heard. Each room and area of this building has various actives going on: naked couples, transsexuals, body parts being sown, and bloodletting. Severed Cinema head writer, Jay Creepy, even makes an insane appearance in a couple killer scenes, portraying a naked hulking clown, completely lost in madness, showing that Jay will do absolutely anything for art!

This is just the tip of the iceberg as far as depravity goes. In one show-stopping scene we see a woman having a blade being pushed through both breasts, interconnecting them, to culminate with it being spun by a drill! Pure insanity! Another brutal sequence with, this time, makeup FX, shows a man completely ripped apart and eviscerated.

The only detracting factor of this film that comes to mind after my repeated viewings were by the actor playing Sebastian, Domiziano Arcangeli’s spoken delivery. While I didn’t mind his sombre portrayal of the character, I did however find it hard to hear or understand some of his dialog, due to it being conveyed lower than other characters. But other than that gripe, all the cast do the film justice. Highlights include Randal Malone, who played Mr. Cannoluti, an exquisite creep, and Irena Violette holds her own as Sarah Roeg. The blood-soaked frosting on this corrupt cake definitely goes to seeing Giovanni Lombardo Radice, as Mr. Roeg, playing another great unconventional character.

House of Flesh Mannequins is a poem of the grotesque. Gorehounds, arthouse fans, and subversive cinephiles alike, should all be grossly satisfied with this new version. That is, if you can get through acts of sexual violence and body modification. As a Severed Cinema reader, I have faith in you. Venture into the House of Flesh Mannequins.


 

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 RATING:
 MOVIE: 1 
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Allie   |186.11.1.xxx |2019-05-06 05:29:57
Another great review, you guys never disappoint.
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