Friday, November 28, 2008

SATANIC SLUTS II: BLACK MASSES (2007) d. Nigel Wingrove

Reviewed by Rick Trottier

Despite all the best efforts of the many world faiths, fundamentalist movements, religious revivals and clerical reforms, The Dark Arts continue to attract the interest of a growing percentage of the Earth’s population. Possibly this is due to the promise of “forbidden fruit” and the lure of exceedingly depraved behavior. Likely, it is the adrenaline rush brought about by “being bad” and getting involved with something taboo. There are even those who truly believe in the teachings of the Church of Satan and worship The Beast with the same fervor that Conservative Christians worship Christ. It is almost certain that both groups attend the same PTA Meetings and bake brownies to help raise funds for soccer equipment. Whatever the reason, just as pornography went through its “chic” phase in the 1970s, alternative lifestyle/sexuality has become just as fashionable in recent years and the trend shows no sign of abating. SATANIC SLUTS II: BLACK MASSES is a look into the artistic and club spectacle that is Dark Arts alternative culture.

SATANIC SLUTS II: BLACK MASSES is a lengthy descent into the heart of London alternative nightclub performances. There is a sizable introduction preceding a three part “main feature”. In the introduction, the viewer is exposed to the “genesis” of The Satanic Sluts as a film phenomenon, a web presence and a clubbing experience. The main feature is a series of “performances” that run an extremely diverse gamut of role plays/skits, pole dancing, belly and go-go dancing, musical performances, club footage and interviews with some of the Satanic Sluts and regular audience members. The subjects of each performance are both predictable and very shocking. Nun abuse, bloody rites, bdsm, lesbianism, dark imagery, incest and rape, fetish and kinky visuals, perverted religious iconography and sacrifice don’t come close to covering the variety of what can be viewed. There is no narrative structure, but a chronological order to club events/dates is maintained.

SATANIC SLUTS II: BLACK MASSES is a very difficult disc to review for the reason that there is an immense dichotomy between what I was unable to enjoy and what I appreciated about the production of the live events. Attending one of these live club performances must be an intense and dramatic experience. There is no question that a great deal of time and effort must have gone into the exotic costumes, the lavish props and darkly creative sets, the complex choreography of dance, music and role play performances as well as the marketing and advertising of each event. They are clearly colorful, sensual and push the boundaries of decency right to and past the edge. It also doesn’t hurt that the women on stage are usually attractive of both face and figure and are most commonly disrobed to a greater degree. Having been to some bizarre and peculiar performance art displays and wild club shows in my youth, I can easily appreciate how exciting such an event would be with young people experimenting with their sexual and artistic tastes as well as enjoying the margins of the nightlife experience. Had I attended one of these live events, I may well have come away impressed, certainly I wouldn’t have left unscathed.

As a dvd viewing experience, this is another matter entirely. In an attempt to emulate and even enhance the “creative elements” of the show, far too many “modern” film making techniques were employed that made this disc virtually unwatchable, unless you are a very young person raised on the misery-inducing visual morass that is music video. Most of the performances were blurry, color and image distorted, filmed, edited and presented in a jarring and jumpy manner, far too dark at times, certainly poorly framed and inexpertly shot. There were irritating stretches where microscopic text appeared on the screen for no reason at all except to be “hip” and “cool”. Only slightly less exasperating was the use of slow-motion and stop & go action. All of these photographic and editing techniques were undoubtedly meant to be “arty” and/or to imitate the chemically-altered consciousness of the club experience as lights, sounds, form and psychotropic drugs subvert the reality of the participant. However that may be, the vast majority of people watching SATANIC SLUTS II: BLACK MASSES will not be under the influence and will probably find this experience just as tedious as I did. I might have enjoyed this more had I knocked back a few glasses of my favorite whiskey, but then my ability to review this dvd would have been compromised. One can’t have it all.

There is a bonus features section on this disc that contains two sizable stills galleries, an extended scene of one performance, four trailers and a promotional flyers gallery. In some respects, the introductory segment acts like a “making of” documentary, so for those hoping for more, they really have just about all you could get in this kind of a disc. The only thing I would have liked more of was cast and audience interviews. The interviews to be had in the “main feature” were my favorite part and a few more of them stuck into the extras menu would have made this viewing experience a little more palatable.

It felt somewhat cruel to knock SATANIC SLUTS II: BLACK MASSES because I know how hard it is to create film and stage performances and something as complex as a live “performance art” show at an alternative culture nightclub must be a Herculean task. My best advice to those who might find this disc tempting is to borrow it from a friend, save up your money and go see performances of a like nature in some of the world’s most enticing cities. Being there would probably be incalculably more enjoyable then sitting at home and watching something on TV that you’d rather see for yourself.

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