Director: Raffaele Picchio
Writers: Tiziano Martella and Raffaele Picchio (story), Gianluigi Perrone (screenplay)
Stars: Valentina D’Andrea, Andrea De Bruyn, Désirée Giorgetti
One of the more notable features of Italian horror films in recent years is just how unpleasant they have become. Not just in terms of the production values, which are often, how to put it… raw. But also in their subject matter: there seems to be a concerted focus on extreme violence and, more particularly, extreme sexual violence. Now I’m not at all against pushing boundaries, but I do think that in order to gain the right to do this you have to do so with a certain degree of intelligence, otherwise what you have is just another Human Centipede. There has, in short, to be a point to it all. And this is what’s missing; rather than trying to say something, Italian filmmakers are resorting to ever more graphic depictions of violence because they have some kind of latent adolescent obsession with apocalypse culture and, quite frankly, because they don’t have the talent to shock quietly.
Mortituris, the 2011 film from Raffaele Picchio, is a perfect case in point. The centerpiece of the film – a sequence which lasts about ten minutes but which seems to go on for much, much longer – is a protracted rape sequence. As well as being extremely hard to sit through, it also serves absolutely no purpose whatsoever; in fact it seems to have been thrown in as a way of bolstering the running time as much as anything else. If you’re clutching at straws you could take it as a veiled comment on the murder of American language student Meredith Kercher, although much of the plot seems to have been inspired by the so-called “Circeo Massacre”, an infamous 1975 true crime, in that it depicts three young men who kidnap a pair of foreign girls they pick up in a nightclub, drive them to a remote location and proceed to rape, torture and then do their best to murder them. However any links to true events only go so far, and there are also intimations that the three wannabe killers have done something similar before and, moreover, that they are in regular communication with – and indeed inspired by – another friend of theirs, who is unable to attend because he’s in the process of murdering a prostitute.
Of course, any claims to realism are also fatally undermined by the fact that this is a zombie movie. These idiots, you see have chosen to conduct their vicious deeds near to the grave of a group of gladiators who had been sentenced to death after running amok in Roman times. What do you know, they choose this particular day to come back to life and restage their previous bloodthirsty deeds; before you know it, just about everyone has had their head ripped off and been crucified on a handy layby. It’s a silly premise and one which sits very uneasily with the content which has preceded it.
Ignoring the stupid script and the bad attitude, not to mention the overly dark cinematography which means that it’s often difficult to work out what’s going on, there are a few aspects of promise buried in there. Some of the imagery is well structured, it integrates comic book imagery cleverly and the dialogue – at least in the first twenty minutes or so – isn’t too bad. Furthermore, the zombie gladiators are undoubtedly striking; it’s just a shame they couldn’t have featured in a more composed and well written production.