Produced by Giulio De Santi
Director: Emanuele De Santi
Writer: Emanuele De Santi
Stars: Emanuele De Santi, Giulio De Santi, Alessandro Gramanti
Many years ago, some time back in the early 1990s, I spent a little time at a charming London institution called The Anarchist Bookshop. I believe I went there expecting it to be a charming place full of leather bound volumes and interesting people wanting to debate the relative merits of the ideas of Bakunin and Blake (William, not me). Instead it was a grimy room full of amusingly photocopied leaflets – the anarchist grasp of desk top publishing obviously having not advanced beyond Christ the Album and Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables – and dreadlocked people wearing near identical clothing (generally of a pseudo military bent), smoking dope and mumbling into their dreadlocks. What this bought home to me, I think, is that the more people try to be different, to be radical, the more they end up being the same, falling into a kind of conformity of alternative ideas and lifestyles. The truly radical don’t need to push their radicality.
Anyway, the reason this all came back to me was that I was watching Adam Chaplin, a sci fi / horror movie made in Italy in 2011. It tries so hard to be extreme, to be different that it ends up being tedious. I have to confess: I fell asleep after about an hour and a quarter. And that sad thing is that it’s when it tries to bludgeon you with it’s non-mainstream-ness – its silly graphic violence, its crude plot, its panto style performances – that it’s at its most boring.
The plot… well, set in a fictional, totalitarian country called Heaven Valley, it seems to be about a kind of zombie called Adam Chaplin who has a weird goblin on his shoulder (actually, this is quite well done and a bit creepy) urging him to take bloody vengeance on the local criminal and state bigwigs who caused his wife to be burnt to death. Adam is blessed with superhuman strength which he uses to beat his victims to a literal pulp, but his main adversary, a faceless maniac called Denny Richards, has more than a few tricks up his sleeve.
This is a confusing mess that makes no effort to create any kind of characters: people are introduced, violently killed, sometimes reanimated, then violently killed again. The main narrative is never developed and the repetitive nature of the story – which has basically been constructed to allow for a gore scene every five minutes – is alienating.
And it’s a shame, because from a stylistic point of view it’s not all bad. It has a very distinctive look, full of dull greys and with an overexposed tinge that’s quite effective. All the characters have strange looks, slightly or more obviously ‘mutated’ (imagine Dick Tracy on a budget), and for some reason it reminded me of 80s favourite Street Trash. Some sequences – a search in some underground sewers, most notably – build up a bit of tension. But, but, but… these are overwhelmed by the general naffness of it all. Sometimes, subtlety can be more effective than shouting. I’d love to be able to recommend any new horror film made in Italy, but I can’t really do that in this case. A lot of the people involved in this have made a kind follow up called Taeter City (as in ‘tater and gravy’?).