Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Conquest (1983)

"Any reference to persons or events is purely coincidental!" (taken from the closing credits, and oh so very true).

Somewhere on a relatively civilized island in Heavy Metal magazine stoneage fantasy land, a young guy named Ilias (Andrea Occhipinti) says goodbye to his elders. He's going into the outside world to do various undefined heroic deeds, a plan that has the elder's full encouragemant (probably because they want to get rid of Ilias and his single facial expression). They even give him a potentially magic bow that will not do anything magical for much of the movie, until it starts to shoot blue laserbeams after he has proven his heroism by running away and returning.

After he has crossed the ocean, Ilias soon crosses paths with the minions of the witch Ocron (Sabrina Siani). Ocron rules her part of stoneage land with an iron hand, or however the hands of someone who is naked except for a golden mask and some crotch cloth and who masturbates with snakes when she is not eating the brains of virgins are called.

Be it as it may, the witch dreams of being killed by a faceless man with a bow, and so orders her henchmen to hunt down the one who possesses this technological wonder.

So Ilias has to do his best fighting against Ocron's henchcreatures - the shaggy people, the dudes with helmets and the evil Wookies. His best isn't much, though, and he wouldn't make it more than twenty minutes into the plot (I use the word loosely) if not for the help of a certain Mace (Jorge Rivero), supposedly the enemy of every man, yet still nice and helpful to Ilias and with a part-time family tucked away in some cave. He's so nice, he's even willing to share his woman with Ilias! It is so romantic.

Together, Mace and Ilias are going to stroll through stoneage fantasy land, fight a little against zombies and cobweb people and minions and do character stuff that doesn't make sense, until they'll finally decide to face up to Ocron's naked breasts.

Conquest, Lucio Fulci's trip into sword and sorcery land, isn't one of his best films. Its main problem lies in the fact that Fulci's strengths as a director were never in delivering the kind of excitement or action that would be helpful when making a sword and sorcery film. Our Lucio was always the man for slow, slow pacing, dream-like moods, gore and completely weird shit. He provides these four things in copious amounts here, but hides much of it behind layers and layers of fog that make watching the movie something of a chore. The dry ice machines were certainly working overtime when Fulci made Conquest, so much so that a re-titling into The Fog, Part 2 would be all too well deserved.

Fulci fans like me won't avoid a film just because it's boring, slow and so foggily shot that the viewer will have difficulty making out much of what's going on of course, and you could argue that Conquest is quite a fun time - if you are able to adapt your expectations and don't watch it as a fantasy adventure but as a part of Fulci's body of work that's only nominally in a different genre than his best films and in truth part of the genre known as "the Fulci film".

If you manage to do this, you'll be confronted with some wonderously freakish monsters like the cobweb people and a merry amount of gore, including a woman being ripped apart and many loving close-up shots of oozing bumps, all set to a partially recycled Claudio Simonetti soundtrack.

One could also argue that the script - in its own elliptical and illogical way - does some rather clever and ironic things with the dreaded "Hero's Journey" formula (against which I'll surely write a rant filled with excessive cursing and violent fantasies about George Lucas in the future), especially with regards to the (closeted gay if I've ever seen one) relationship of Ilias and Mace and the identity of the hero who finally slays the witch. On the other hand, you could use the same ideas and moments to call the script lazy and stupid.

It's just a very peculiar film, bound to leave most viewers unsatisfied through its dubious pacing and foggy visuals, but fascinating enough for lovers of weird Italian shit and/or Lucio Fulci.



Keith said...

No redeeming it, but I love this movie. It's what would happen if two stoners in the back of a customized Chevy van made a movie based on the artwork airbrushed on the side of said van.

houseinrlyeh said...

That's a perfect description.
It is a lovable film in its foggy, brain-damaged way.