Saturday, April 14, 2012

Snuff Trap

Snuff Trap
Original title: Snuff Killer – La morte in diretta
Directed by: Bruno Mattei (as Pierre La Blanc)
Italy, 2003
Exploitation/Thriller, 88min

Come on, You know that any intro to a Bruno Mattei review will be something that plays along on the lines of me saying he was the true master of cheap exploitation fare, and a misunderstood genius… well I still stand by that point, and it’s all true. Because as other masters of Italian genre cinema where making cheap TV movies, trying to rehash their old flicks or even worse doing nothing at all, Bruno Mattei boldly stuck to his crusade against the moral majority! You have to hail Mattei as the real entrepreneur of sleaze and cheap thrills, because he never stopped making these movies… Never! From 1970’s Armida, il drama di una sposa, to 2008’s Zombi: La Creazione (Zombies: the Beginning), Mattei just kept on delivering the goods, and who would have believed that there would have been such quality sleaze capturing the aura of all that wonderfully seedy period of Italian low budget filmmaking being made in 2003?

Michelle [Carla Solaro] is a wealthy woman living a happy life of shipping at day and fundraising galas at night. But when her daughter Lauren [Federica Garuti] goes missing form the discotheque she went to with friends, Michelle’s life takes a sudden turn for the worse. Where the police fail to locate her daughter, Michelle sets of on her own investigation, which rapidly leads her into a depraved world of sadomasochism, pornography and snuff films.
Snuff Trap starts off with a delightfully sleazy intro where an audience watches a hooded man slash the underwear of the women chained to beds and items on the stage. A second bloke videotapes the “show” as the hooded assassin produces a knife, which he stabs in to one of the women who sighs in an orgasmic death grunt. Where Jess Franco would have stayed in the moment, and shown us that we’d been watching a performance, Mattei does no such thing. He zooms in on the voyeuristic camera lens and sublimely tells us that this is no show, this is Snuff Trap!This initial attack definitely sets a tone for the movie, Seedy and Gritty, Sleazy and Violent. Yeah it’s a promise on which Mattei delivers multiple times. Snuff Trap is definitely not a movie for the weak. This is a movie that explores the legend of snuff movies, sado-masochism, violence, depravity, and shot by one of the greatest exploitation filmmakers of all time… well you just cant go wrong can you?
Mattei, responsible for this screenplay by himself, (along with producer Giovanni Paloucci, who's contribution I'd guess was something along the lines of, "Hey Bruno, do something like this movie…") and it’s an impressive movie in it’s own niche of sexploitation, low budget film, as Mattei brings some really interesting stuff to the scene in this movie. Where it’s more or less a direct reworking of Joel Schumacher’s 8mm 1999, and Paul Schrader’s Hardcore 1979, the use of a female protagonist is a stroke of genius. A man searching for his missing daughter in the seedy underbelly of the sex industry is now where near as threatening as a woman taking on the same risky venture… god knows all the perils she can encounter. Mattei really pushes his leading lady way beyond anything the previous movies did, and it’s a degenerative and stirring ride she takes.
But this wouldn’t mean anything without the delicate characterization that Mattei gives Michelle. This woman is slowly presented to us, as a dedicated mother, a faithful wife and a good person. She has no hesitation to take matters into her own hands – because she has the funds, as she’s a wealthy woman – when the police offer no assistance to find her daughter. When the private detective she’s hired also pulls blanks, Michelle starts her own decent into the putrid world of pornography, violence and beyond guided by the sinister character Jean Louis, [Gabriele Gori] who she meets in a sex shop. But just like so many others in this film Jean Louis has a hidden agenda too.
Heading off on her own quest to save the fruit of her womb, builds a likeable character and the slow decent through escalating sex and violence keep’s it realistic. Michelle has to work for her victories and steps closer to whoever kidnapped her child. Pretty soon we find ourselves rooting for Michelle and want her to find her daughter, hopefully still alive and in the best case, kill the pornographers and snuff makers and make it back to the safety of their normal life…
Scratching the surface leads nowhere, but Michelle is challenged by smut peddler dwarf Karl [Valerino Alessandrini] to partake in an excruciating entrance ordeal, which gains her admittance into the darkest underbelly; the lair of Dr Hades [Anita Auer], known to fans as the Fellini of the Sadomasochists. Her sacrifice proves that there are no limits to what Michelle will do to find her child. Michele is a sympathetic character and through her sufferings the audience experiences with her. We feel the pain of her physical ordeal and absence of her daughter. This makes us feel empathy for her, and as soon as that bond is created there’s no where Michelle cant go without us rooting for her… and there are some dark and disturbing places she goes once she’s past the average sex shop with live show.
But it’s not all seedy sex and rough violence, there’s also some delirious Mattei-ish subplots concerning a masked figure who seems to be an external part in on the kidnapping and cash exchange – as Michelle lures Dr. Hades with a wad of two hundred thousand Euros to make a bestiality or orgy of blood film with the intention of finding Laruen – and the Interpol Detective Peter Laurence [Carlo Mucari] who Michelle meets in a bar, and shags not once, but twice before he reveals that he’s tracking down the snuff film makers too. We can’t be certain of his loyalty, is it for Michelle, or Dr. Hades and this creates a good tension for the piece.
There’s a brilliant moment when Michelle watches casting tapes of girls that could be part of her movie, none of them shown on the shoddy VHS copy is Lauren. When Dr Hades rewinds the tape past the first girl they watched, Lauren flashers by… but instead of having Michele react there, Mattei inserts some odd cutaways of Lauren in her prison instead… suggesting that there’s a paranormal connection between Mother and Daughter. Like many other Bruno Mattei films, it’s just one of those odd moments that just hands there… The kind of quirkiness that makes his movies stick out.

Metaphorically I can read this movie as a sexploitation adaptation of not only 8mm and Hardcore, but also of Dante Alighieri’s The Divine Comedy, which tells of the author’s trip through hell and back, which is exactly what, Michelle’s venture is al about. Yes, fine Italian culture and the exploitative trash fest it inspired seven hundred years later, the circle is closed, and Mattei delivers the most interesting version of the poems ever. It’s all there if you just read the movie correctly. Inferno, Purgatorio, Paradiso. In Inferno Dante realizes that he’s getting in too deep and meets Virgil who guides him. Just as in Snuff Trap, Michelle gets in deep and meets Jean Luis, who guides her even deeper down into hell. Purgatorio, after the nine circles of hell, there’s the seven deadly sins, which is where Michelle finds herself when confronted with Dr. Hades, who offers any kind of perversion at a price. In the last chapter Paradiso they exit and Dante is aligned with god’s love, as he re finds his faith… when you see the movie you sill see how this is to be found in the last act of Snuff Trap, a movie by Bruno Mattei, I choose to see as a modern version of Dante Alighieri’s The Divine Comedy.

Production value! Mattei knew everything about production value, and there are a number of shots of Carla Solaro walking across famous locations all around Europe in her search for her daughter. Yeah, just walking through a familiar place in an exterior shot gives Mattei the opportunity to cut right back to the sleazy set, createing the illusion that the movie takes place all over Europe, and all most likely for the cost of a weekend round-trip through cities of Europe. I’ve never seen a movie where the leading character walks through, stops and has a little pose to signal a little think, before walking out of shot again in so many known places, but, it works and I’m writing it up as yet another sign of Mattei’s brilliance.

Snuff Trap is a grimey and fascinating movie, which Mattei scripted, directed and edited. Shot by Luigi Ciccasere who shot several of Mattei’s later movies including L’isola dei morti viventi (Island of the Living Dead) 2008. The movie even features stunts supervised by legendary Italian stuntman Ottaviano Dell’Acqua, who has a very small cameo in the movie. To think that Mattei was getting away with stuff like this without really getting any attention is an outrage. This is potent stuff, at times it even predates Srdjan Spasojevic’s Srpski Film (A Serbian Film) 2010 in its topics, themes investigation plot and shock twists. Snuff Trap is a movie you should be watching right now if you like the work of Bruno Mattei!


Nigel M said...

I didn't find it grim at all. Thought the snuff scenes were so cliched that they were hilarious. No where near as dark as D'amato's attempts at similar. Nevertheless I really did enjoy Snuff Trap.

CiNEZiLLA said...

Nah, I suppose you might be right there Nigel. But It's a Mattei, so I have to sugar it up a bit. Although the huge shearers up the jaxy of that woman in the Dwarfs place is kinda grim... :D

Jack J said...

You have to "sugar it up a bit"? Huh? Aren't you doing the opposite? If you sugar'ed it up you'd be making it sound sweeter than what it is. You're making it sound GRIMMER than what it is. LMFAO. You're pouring vinegar on it, mate. Haha.

I have this in my collection but haven't seen it yet. Thanks for this (as always) fab review! Too fucking bad it's not available to people who aren't outlaws. AWE/Njut should put it out.

CiNEZiLLA said...

Lol. Nevertheless It's a Mattei and the more people who discover Mattei the better! :D

There's something about him that I empathize immensely with. Much more than I ever did with D'Amato. Perhaps it's because Mattei stuck to his guns, who knows.

Yeah, AWE/Njuta should get this out there. They cold make a great Mattei box set.

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