Thursday, February 27, 2014

Uli Lommel's Black Dahlia (2006)

It’s been exactly a year since I reviewed the cinematic train wreck that was Black Dahlia. In remembrance of that horrible experience, I now feel the strange compulsion to review another Black Dahlia film. Why? Well, because I have flashbacks of a girl with pigtails doing military training, of course; why else? Also because I was traumatized, and all I wanted before I died was to see another Black Dahlia film. Or something like that, anyway.

Sigh. If none of this makes sense to you, it just means you’re any other human being on the planet besides Uli Lommel.

Director: Uli Lommel
Starring: Elissa Dowling, Sutton Christopher

This movie is a hackneyed excuse for filmmaking made by Uli Lommel, who is renowned for making nonsensical, off the wall movies without any kind of logic to them. This is the first one I’ve seen and it’s exactly what I just said. Add in the fact that the film is put out by something called Shadow Factory – which sounds like a lost level in a Legend of Zelda game or something – and you have a perfect recipe for disaster.

We kick off this film with a reenactment of the Black Dahlia murder, which is confusing due to very poor editing. Instead of a fluid narrative that shows events in a way that makes sense, Lommel’s directing style seems to be based around the idea that filmgoers want to have seizures while being entertained. The shots are choppy, there are constant flashes and the camera shakes like a drunk man riding a roller coaster. It would be one thing if it was just done in this scene to add some kind of psychedelic effect – I mean, it would still be bad; no getting around that – but no, it’s the whole fuckin’ movie. So yeah, this is just how Lommel thinks people like to see their movies.

We then get some kind of bust on a kidnapping or something, with this young cop pretending to be an accomplice in a kidnapping plot and then turning on the guy and getting him arrested. I dunno, to me the conversation the cop has with the criminal before the bust, about kidnapping someone, just reminds me of how this movie was financed.


Meanwhile, some blonde girl is going for her new movie audition at a truly credible, professional looking studio:

Yes, with the empty jail cells, tall, silent and menacing looking guys covered in blood and the basement with a table with shackles on it? I totally believe this is a legit studio that will help me advance my budding film career.

… except I’m being sarcastic. And the girl in the movie? She really falls for this. As do several other ladies in the rest of the movie. I’m sorry, but HOW?! How would you fall for this? It’s a recurring theme in the film: these girls come into this obviously decrepit, run down torture chamber and really, honestly think it’s a fuckin’ movie audition studio. Even when the obvious serial killers stare her down, measure her body parts and then tie her to a table, SHE STILL THINKS SHE’S AUDITIONING FOR A MOVIE.

"I ... I really don't like the way this audition is going!"

I … I really don’t even know … how do you even make that mistake when writing a script? I mean, I know they’ll have plotholes, that’s inevitable – but seriously. Normal people don’t act like this. Do I even have to say it? Saying it would just demean me further. But, fuck it, looks like I gotta say it: normal people, when invited to a “movie audition” where scary men covered in blood take measurements of your body parts and strap you down to a table, don’t still think they’re going to be auditioning for a movie.

Sigh. Well, I’ve hit a new low. I’ve explained something that even a monkey with cranial damage could comprehend. And yet people who can’t grasp that, are making movies widely released to the public in the world. I may have to sit down for a moment.

I guess after that we get some truly bizarre happy music played over scenes of the killers dismembering the body and leaving parts all over town, sorta-kinda like the original Black Dahlia murder in the 40s. Hurray for historical relevance? Though I don’t even think the other Black Dahlia movie had the cops talking about breakfast while looking at the dismembered body parts.

Why is it black and white? Did Lommel just forget to turn the color on? Or did he not have enough money to film everything in color?

Seriously. This fat redheaded lady cop jabbers on endlessly about bangers and mash to the other guy, not even really talking about the crime at all, just blabbing about how she wants more breakfast. The guy even starts talking back and they have a conversation about it. While standing over a bunch of bloody dismembered arms and legs.

… I can’t do this. There’s really no way. Every criticism I have of this whole goddamn thing just boils down to basic common sense. The jokes would come off more like statements of the obvious than anything. It’s like making fun of a mentally handicapped person. Jesus.

So, yeah, one of the new cops sees a link between this and the Black Dahlia murder, and reads endlessly the same articles on the Internet over and over that talk about her death in a basic, rudimentary way – yeah, maybe if you read it a sixth time it’ll tell you what you need to know, you fucking genius.

THE INTERNET IS COOL, GUYS. Also, that website design is fucking horrible. This is really supposed to be 2006? More like 1998.

I guess he finds this old man director guy, who saw the Black Dahlia before she died. The old man has a granddaughter or something who lives with him – who is also the little girl who helps torture people in that old dungeon place. These three have an entirely aimless conversation about what the old man remembers about the Dahlia, which amounts to “she was pretty but not that smart.” The cop lies and says he works at a video store, which prompts the little girl to ask if he works at a porn store. Why? Because maybe Lommel was horny while filming and just really wanted to know where a good porn store was in town.

Then the girl offers him a shoe that she claims is a shoe formerly owned by the Black Dahlia. There’s no proof that it is, and it never comes up again, so bravo Lommel for introducing another ridiculous plot point. She offers the show in exchange for a free video tape, and they just sort of go off talking about videos, sort of like Lommel or whoever wrote this just forgot about the rest of the story.

"Heh heh...I went to film school for six years and I ended up in this. Now I just smoke a lot of weed every day."

After that, we get something truly new in the film – another chick going to that creepy old prison dungeon warehouse place thinking it’s a movie audition.

She acts really crazy at first and takes off her shirt, saying all kinds of strange things that weird the little girl out. I find it odd that the little girl keeps telling her to shut up – why don’t you just kill her then, if she’s that annoying? I mean it is a torture dungeon. And it’s not like you’ve exactly skimped on killing before.

So they strap the girl down and start to mark her body up with a large rusty hook. Through the whole thing she keeps on asking why they’re doing this if it’s a movie audition, and saying she’s not sure about the whole thing anymore. At this point I think if you can’t tell that you got tricked, you deserve to die. I know that’s cruel, but … that’s what the movie has driven me to. And to be fair, she does die anyway. So I’m off the hook.

Seriously. I’m surprised they don’t keep asking when the filming starts while the killers are cutting them up. It’s just amazing how bad it really is. There are no words.

Then we get another scene of the cops looking at the body parts. If that fat redheaded lady brings up bangers and mash again, I don’t know what I’ll do.

Aaaaaaand she does! That’s it! The fuckin’ movie is broken! Everybody run and duck for cover!

I mean … is there any point in reviewing the rest of the movie? I’ve already covered everything it has to offer, after all. What is there to say? If you actually keep watching after the first 20 minutes, you get some more torture scenes – like, four or five, and they all go the same way: dumbass girls go into this objectively terrifying place, get stared down by the obvious serial killers, and then get tied to a table and butchered. Then the cops talk about food some more.

After a while, it got so repetitive that – as if I were watching the same movie multiple times – I began to notice the smaller things that really pointed out how absolutely batshit crazy this movie really was. I’ll give you an example: there are these two guys who kill all the girls:

Why does one of them dress like some kind of fancy butcher, with the apron and the steel mask, and the other one just a football helmet and a black T-shirt? Did they only have money for one costume? I don’t mean the characters – I mean Lommel and whatever poor saps he actually suckered into being his crew. “Alright, we’re gonna get these two really awesome butcher costumes, and … wait, what do you mean we only have one? Ugh. Fine, go get my brother’s football helmet and that shirt I wore two days ago. It’ll have to do.”

And what’s up with the shots of the girl doing military exercises spliced in with the kill scenes?

Yeah, during every kill scene, we get these shots put randomly in there for no discernable reason. The girl looks a bit like the pigtailed chick who helps the killers, but nothing is ever established as to what the fuck it means. It’s not even one of those artsy metaphoric things, as that character is never the focus, and we don’t learn anything about her. Maybe the editor just got drunk and spliced his military girlfriend’s home videos into the mix of this. I dunno.

Furthermore, how the hell do the cops never catch onto these maniacs? I mean, notwithstanding that the killings are already similar to the Black Dahlia thing, and a cheap sign with the words “Black Dahlia Audition” mysteriously appeared on an old jail/warehouse building …. It’s just weird that none of these girls told anyone that was where they were going. If they had, then surely the cops would have pieced together that fact when interviewing the families of the girls after they identified them.

"I really feel like my movie career is off to a great start."

“Oh, they were all auditioning for the same fake movie based in a shady location none of us have checked out yet? Eh. Must be coincidence.” Then again, that makes sense, seeing as the cop assigned to the case spends literally all of his time in some bar bothering the staff:

No, fucking seriously – the other characters even say it! They address the fact that he just spends time in bars all day! When he should be doing his job! This movie just makes no sense! WHAT IS YOUR MALFUNCTION.

And you'll love the reason why all of this was happening in the first place. Are you ready for this? So that old man director guy wanted to see the Black Dahlia again, as he'd never gotten to make a movie with her. I guess he got his granddaughter and those two other weirdos to start an audition and find someone who looked like the Black Dahlia so he could make the movie before he died. When someone came into their incredibly creepy and horrifying "audition" that wasn't the spitting image of the Dahlia, they massacred her and scattered her body across town.

... I don't even ... I mean ... WHAT THE HELL IS THAT? I mean, for one, it's banking on the fact that the Dahlia-lookalike will be stupid enough to fall for their flimsy cover story anyway. Two, what would have happened when they found her? They just make a movie and forget about the mass murder and butchery they committed on dozens of girls prior? How would that work? How, in any conceivable reality, would that end up the way they wanted?

Lommel was going "hey, I know this doesn't make sense, but here's a pointless half-naked shot." Oh, who am I kidding? He just wanted to milk the one chance he'd ever get to see a woman like that naked. There was no other reason.

God, okay, what the fuck ever; let’s just end it: that one young cop FINALLY finds the abandoned prison place, threatens to arrest them all, yadda yadda – somehow they get him on the table and kill him. As the other cops are coming to his too-late rescue, the movie just ends. Just like that, it’s over; no conclusion, no resolution to anything that happened. That’s just the end.

This was seriously just a miracle of horribleness. It was a genuine so-bad-it’s-good sort of flick – except then it turned from ‘good’ to ‘hideous’ again when I realized the awful implications of this whole mess. It’s a movie that takes a real life genuine mystery and turns it into torture porn garbage with goofy music played over top. Not only that, but, seriously – this stuff really happens. Young girls really do go to these fake auditions and end up dead in ditches outside town.

That shit happens every day! And you had a chance to represent that, Mr. Lommel – but hey, I guess the silly serial killer cult movie with goofy comedy music and characters so dumb they’re not sympathetic at all was just too good to pass up. Screw saying anything meaningful or relevant about real life tragedy and horror.

I just hate every fiber of what this movie implies, of what it truly is. It’s so despicable it actually makes me sick. But on the other hand, everything that went into making it is so darkly hilarious. This is a funny, funny movie, on a very deep, unintentional level, and it’s so god-awful and ridiculous that I can’t help but laugh at it too. Which directly contradicts the hate I was feeling towards it seconds earlier! It’s maddening! Ahhhhhh!

P.S. I still like it better than the Brian De Palma one.

Images copyright of their original owners. Though I can't imagine anyone would sue me for this one... how much could they get? A couple quarters maybe?