Friday, February 17, 2017

Past Misdeeds: Ogroff (1983)

Through the transformation of the glorious WTF-Films into the even more glorious Exploder Button and the ensuing server changes, some of my old columns for the site have gone the way of all things internet. I’m going to repost them here in irregular intervals in addition to my usual ramblings.

Please keep in mind these are the old posts without any re-writes or improvements. Furthermore, many of these pieces were written years ago, so if you feel offended or need to violently disagree with me in the comments, you can be pretty sure I won’t know why I wrote what I wrote anymore anyhow.

A leather mask and wool cap wearing killer who might or might not respond to the name of Ogroff (the film's director/writer/nearly-everything-else-er N.G. Mount) haunts a patch of woods in the French countryside, doing what masked killers do, namely killing people with his favourite axe, eating parts of their corpses raw (although he appreciates a good blood soup, too), and having sex with said axe in his bone-adorned shed. From time to time, Ogroff has more interesting things to do, like having a longish duel with a chainsaw-wielding gentleman or demolishing a very French car with his axe in real-time.

While Ogroff goes about his day(s) - time tends to be somewhat malleable in these woods - a female relative of one of his victims - let's call her Girl - arrives to find out what happened to her sister/brother/little nephew. While she's at it, she also decapitates a zombie with the help of her trusty car and a rope. When Girl and Ogroff meet, our hero (yep, that's what he is, sorry) hauls her over his shoulder and drags her to his shed where the two soon proceed to have consensual sex. Afterwards, Girl starts with improving Ogroff's home by burying various body parts and tidying up the shed.

It looks like the start of a perfect relationship, if not for the sad fact that Girl doesn't want Ogroff to continue killing. Of course, Ogroff sneaks off to follow his calling anyway. While he's out, Girl finds a trapdoor in the shed, and unwittingly frees the zombies living under Ogroff's and her home. Soon, Girl has quite enough of her new boyfriend's very alternative lifestyle, but will that help her against the zombies? And will Ogroff be able to axe all the flesheaters before he himself is all gnawed up?

During the course of its unlife, Ogroff has developed quite a reputation with friends of the seediest and most obscure regions of horror film culture for being astonishingly bizarre even compared to other weekend movie projects by amateur enthusiasts. And a very deserving reputation that is.

At first, Mount's film lives from creating the feeling that the life of a backwoods slasher is much more quotidian than one would expect. The killing, the gore, the head-adorned cross in Ogroff's yard are all filmed with a sense of shrugging matter-of-factness, as if there were nothing strange or disturbing about these things, as if running around killing people were really nothing more than another day at the office, not just for Ogroff, but also for Mount's camera and the audience sharing its gaze. Creating this mood of the boringly normal out of the outrageous is already an achievement, but Mount seems to realize that more than thirty minutes of it would get a bit boring for a viewer, and so begins to spice things up by adding increasing amounts of weird shit to the proceedings - possibly just to keep the viewer on his feet.

Things like the axe masturbation sequence in which Ogroff seems to touch his axe instead of his penis, and not so much his penis with his axe handle are still handled with the same laconic (possibly apathetic) flair as the rest, they do however feel even weirder by being given this treatment. Even at the very end, coming with the surprise appearance of Howard Vernon as [spoiler redacted], when the film turns completely into a comic book as written and drawn by a French gore loving Fletcher Hanks, Mount keeps the friction between the utter normalcy with which he treats his subject and the batshit insane nature of it up. I mean, everyone sleeps with the killer of one's beloved sister/brother/whatever, right? And it's not at all unusual to have zombies in one's cellar?

On a more technical level, Ogroff is not always as bad as you'd expect from its nature as an amateur film. Sure, light changes happen rapidly and randomly, and sometimes it's too dark to see much even in scenes that are probably supposed to take place in daylight (although the latter problem, as some random blurriness, might be the fault of the print I saw and not of the film itself). The film features nearly no dialogue, and the minute or two of it which are there are as asynchronously dubbed and boredly spoken as anything I've ever heard. Naturally, the film's acting is done in the pantomime style of really bad silent movie acting (personal favourite: when female victim number one finds her dead husband/boyfriend/whatever and holds her bloody hand into the camera while mugging). Obviously, the gore is at times embarrassingly fake, with a special love for what looks like unpainted styrofoam heads.

However, while all these flaws (and more) are present and accounted for, Ogroff also features more than a few well composed - even moody - shots, an awesome minimalistic non-score of synthesizer warbling and overloud sound effects, and acting which is perfectly adorable if one pretends that this is in fact a silent movie gone insane.

There's also the disturbing fact that Ogroff, the big cannibalistic oaf, is quite endearing. If one takes on the minor effort to shut off one's moralizing inner Roger Ebert, one can begin to adore the little gestures of Mount's performance, the slight sagging of the auteur's shoulders when he realizes that Girl has left him, the enthusiastic post-axe-pleasuring drooling. Plus, how many movie axers apart from Ogroff do you know who are frequently seen pushing a bike through the woods, and who wear a helmet over their mask and wool cap while riding their motorcycle, axe in hand?

And, you know, even if all of that doesn't float your boat, Ogroff still has so much more to offer for someone who likes her movies as batshit insane as possible.

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