Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Cauldron: Baptism of Blood (2004)

A circle of female demon worshippers serving the demon Vessago (Scott Blacksher) - usually seen in form of a giant see-through floating head that dissolves into green digital stars when he's had enough of this shit - does demon-worship-y things in Las Vegas. Nope, not slaughtering Elvis impersonators - these girls prefer to dance around in circles in skimpy outfits as well as a good old regular human sacrifice. Just don't ask them why they put the heads of their victims in an aquarium.

The cult's leader, a certain Demonia (Mary Selby), also works as an occult adviser and magical professional killer from time to time (whenever there's need for a scene not including any dancing, to be precise), but who cares? The film sure doesn't.

Anyway, poor innocent Stacy (Kellie Karl), winner of something called "America's Top Talent" - the talent here's so top the finale of the whole affair even includes a ventriloquist who just happens to be Stacy's girlfriend - is gifted an amulet by a random cult member and says something about "doing anything for fame". Obviously, when next she's alone with her boyfriend's ventriloquist doll in her bedroom, Vessago's head appears and wants to make a deal. That Stacy isn't in the soul-selling trade does not interest him too much, so when she doesn't want to make a deal, he sends out some teleporting women he made out of manikins (don't ask me) to kidnap her. Now, Stacy will either have to become a member of the cult or their sacrifice. My, how exciting.

If you are asking yourself whatever happened to prodigious director/writer/producer/all-around-occultism-loving-madman-with-a-castle-full-of-women Ted V. Mikels, I can now assure you that nothing at all happened to him. While the great frightening man didn't work his cinematic magic much in the 80s and 90s, the 21st century and its cornucopia of cheap digital cameras, free digital editing suites and mildly attractive women willing to "star in a movie", even when it's not a movie as most people understand the word and they can't act, have caused an explosion of new creativity from him. Even better, in all those years, Mikels has seemingly not learned a single thing about filmmaking, so this re-make/re-imagining/sequel/rip-off of the director's own classic Blood Orgy of the She-Devils is just as horrible as one could have hoped for, without the need for Mikels to unlearn anything.

The Cauldron's improbable, mythical horribleness is not a bad thing, mind you. For the weak of spirit, Mikels' very personal cinematic vision of films consisting as exclusively of scenes of Satanist bikini-clad women writhing in what I only describe as "dances" because language has no words that would really fit the action on screen as possible while still being long and boring, will be hard to get into or even survive. However, once you've gotten into the spirit of Mikels' films, strange vistas of wonder and horror open up before you, until you can't tell good from bad, and boredom and entertainment become the same thing.

Once that has happened, strange sources of entertainment will open up: there is, of course, the dancing, then more of the dancing, and then even more of the dancing, until even the most hardened viewer's eyes will begin to glaze over; that's of course the moment when Mikels will hit you with even more dancing - after that, you just might get a glimpse at the dweller in the centre of the universe itself. To reach that dancing core of Mikels' art, the courageous viewer - mirroring the Campbellian Hero himself - has to fight through valleys of acting so bad, line deliveries so ill-advised even a high school theatre teacher would flinch; after that, said viewer will dive into the depths of Mikels' home-made talent show - only taking up about a quarter of the screen, while the rest belongs to video editing suite "effects" - containing no talent but that which will destroy your mind; and when that's over, there are still the mandatory Boring Cop Sequences and a home-made talk show about the paranormal featuring Ted V. Mikels himself trying to keep our Hero away from the dancing. Eventually, there's only more dancing and a scene of a floating demon head first shooting cartoon lighting and then very digital cartoon flames (of course accompanied by the sound of insect spray) at his own worshippers for no reason whatsoever.

Then, the film is over, and enlightenment and transcendence through boredom and bad dancing has been achieved. Well, that, or the sort of madness that can only be described with vocabulary stolen from Lovecraft. In any case, it's an experience.


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