Thursday, February 11

The Possible Origin, Glory, and Gift of OGROFF, THE MAD MUTILATOR (1983)

Let's travel together, if you will, to a far off constellation. Thousands of light years from Earth, beyond the power of our measly telescopes, resides the Planet Zebob. The communal alien race that inhabits the rock has harassed their vastly superior spacey technology to amplify the terrestrial signals beamed out from Earth. Everything from radio to television feeds are captured, but the Zebobians discard most of it, except for certain signals the aliens mine like gold.

They love our films, especially our horror films, because their basic vernacular is usually easiest for most of the Zebobian populous to understand. They're unsure what to think of the Aztian, their name for humans, but believe our film genres represent class division in our society. Naturally, Horror is on the low end of the totem, where participants must fight to survive eminent death. Slashers have swiped Zebob venues globally, where the aliens mind meld as one as the Earth film is streamed into their collective genitalia--don't ask.

Anyway, the signals from Earth arrive with a tremendous delay. So much so they're just receiving transmissions from 1984 and Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter just exploded on Zebob. A Nightmare on Elm Street hasn't quite gotten there yet. In a moment of inspiration, a group of young Zebobians decide to harvest their resources to manufacture their own slasher. To accomplish this, an enormous database is assembled of '80s hack and slash cliché and several steps beyond yotta-level computing power is utilized to calculate a 90 minute, Aztian-based rendering of the perfect slasher for Zebobian consumption. But something goes haywire in the process.

The Zebobians conducting the experiment inadvertently discover fire, something never seen before on their planet, as the process fails in a fiery explosion. After sixteen million Zebobians perish from simply inhaling the smoke within minutes of the accident, the rescue team discovers the result of the experiment still steaming in a burnt out corner. After years of indecision, Zebobian authorities decide to never view the resulting film, and believe it better to transmit it to Earth as a gift for decades of enjoyment from our signals.

In 1983, what is Ogroff is sent in the direction of Planet Earth. The alien signal buried itself in a French TV broadcast of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe on Saturday, August 20th. A young boy just happened to be recording the broadcast on his parent's new cutting-edge Three-Head VCR that morning. Several years pass before an intrepid French VHS collector buys the tape from a swap meet and discovers its secret. The film ends up being released a few times on French VHS with the rest being history...

Okay, that's not what happened, but with something as strange as Ogroff (Ogroff: Le Monstre à la hache sanglante / Ogroff: The Axe Monster / Mad Mutilator), it's feasible. This French ultra obscurity is the brainchild of director N.G. Mount (Norbert George Moutier) as an answer (or rip-off) to popular American slashers of the period. Beside Jean Rollin and the recent wave of brutal exercises like Haute tension or Martyrs, France isn't particularly known for the horror genre at all. Ogroff represents one of the scarce anomalies that presumably no one in the country was asking for in 1983. The feature remains rarely seen with its meager dozen person strong popularity slowly growing with its availability from several video dealers and torrents.

The film is about its titular character, played by Moutier himself, walking around the forest by a desolate roadside in search of victims to fall by his axe. Ogroff wears a black beanie, vintage leather welder's mask, white sweater with shoulder inserts, and galoshes. His home is a shack fashioned from doors and adorned on the interior by bones and old hand tools. Outside, a large cross complete with skulls, used to chain chicks up. Though he doesn't just slaughter the ladies; but also kids, men armed with chainsaws, and the undead. Dude hates bitches screaming, radios, and chess. Eventually, after slicing out tongues, axing 'em, and masturbating his axe, Ogroff finds a slutty girl that appears immediately okay with his mutilating ways for no reason. Then things start getting really weird...

Not to sound big-headed, but there's two extremes within each genre where a very high degree of appreciation becomes vital to seeing something in works generally casted off as worthless by more casual fans. You have your high brow selections that demand a learned approach of a more seasoned student. On the opposing end resides a low, so low, that some kind of really intrinsic love for the genre is required to wade through what most would throw in the trash after five minutes. Ogroff digs its talons firmly within this bottom end. It's downright horrible, yet gloriously so, failing on so many levels that it transcends itself and becomes something of a little, unique horror flick that could.

Unable to afford practically anything, Moutier shot Ogroff without sound. Not that unusual, much Italian horror did this, but Moutier couldn't afford any mixing or professional foley effects. The result is one sound effect being heard at a time and many of the effects sounding done in an apartment. The score will be playing, suddenly stop, a character will say something, and the score will start right back up. At times, you can literally hear the "pop" when Moutier clicks on or off the record button. Speaking of the score, it has a weird ominous quality by way of electronic droning, like a bad mix between a Radio Shack keyboard and a Moog. Dialogue is virtually non-existent. It's mostly nature sounds, the same clip of screaming over-and-over, or the mismatched clangs of axe/hammer blows.

Everything else is virtually non-existent (do I hear an echo?), but somehow amazingly hypnotic. Howard Vernon wanders out of a mid-'70s Jess Franco entry to appear as a vampire. Zombies show up and I'll be damned if one couldn't make them creepy even with a budget of just three dollars. There's an axe vs. chainsaw duel with a dude that looks like José Mojica Marins. A motorcycle axe swingin' chase. Toy car sinking. Blood splashes on the camera. Random shots to which I have no fucking clue what they are but they're awesome anyway. References to Texas Chain Saw Massacre and The Burning. I swear there's even a few meta-nods to Evil Dead 2, despite Ogroff being made years beforehand. I doubt Raimi ever saw this one...or did he?

Other reviews/comments of Ogroff have referred to Long Island Cannibal Massacre and Violent Shit as similar films, but I'd say it shares a lot with Riki-Oh: The Story of Ricky as well. Both films are so strange they exist in a hyper-reality that's completely disembodied from any reality we know. They feel much older than their actual ages and thrive in that environment. Ogroff accomplishes this on its hilarious ineptitude and still feels like an undiscovered frontier in a world of easy access to countless horror films. Many horror flicks are popped out for the sake of being quick cashmakers, but Ogroff feels that way and doesn't at the same time. It's like Moutier was commissioned to make a horror film for some company to have a horror film in their catalog and nothing more--not even profit. It's tough to explain, but Ogroff is like nothing you've seen before, yet it's like everything seen before...and it's French...and a horror movie...from 1983. It's the personification of a Halloween goodie bag filled with shitty candy, but getting the cool looking bag thrown in your treat sack itself means so much more than what's inside. Hell, maybe it really is from Zebob?


Jayson Kennedy said...

Be sure, to click that last link!

*hint hint*

houseinrlyeh aka Denis said...

And thank you for that last link!

I think there's a surprising amount of films obviously made by aliens, but they seldom pretend to be French, so that alone makes this sound like a must see.

The Vicar of VHS said...

I'd read about this one before on Bleeding Skull I think, but had forgotten it until your excellent review here. Anything that might feasibly be compared to Coffin Joe, even in part, is something so weird that it must be seen by me. :) Great stuff!

Anthony1138 said...

This sounds amazing. I just downloaded it and will definitely be watching it soon. Thanks for the link and amusing review!

avasatani said...

Thanks for the link man, I'll be sure to watch it soon.

Unknown said...

I noticed the above Ogroff.avi is
400MB, Whats the quality like cos'
i d/l this from CG. The avi i have is
999MB... you dare tread upon the staircase?

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