Thursday, September 9, 2010

'Urban Flesh: Rebirth Edition' brings underground classic to DVD, new century

Urban Flesh: Rebirth Edition (2007)
Starring: Martin Dubreuil, Mireille Leveque, Marie-Eve Petit, K.M Lavigne, Anthony Pereira, and Marc Vaillancourt
Director: Alexandre Michaud
Rating: Six of Ten Stars

Four thrill-killers (Dubreuil, Petit, Pereira, and Vaillancourt) prowl a the night of a Canadian city in search of victims to kill... and to then eat raw. As a homicide detective (Lavigne) closes in on them, he and his wife (Leveque) are added to their menu.

"Urban Flesh" is something of an underground legend among fans of gore movies. It was made on a shoestring budget by Canadian filmmaker Alexandre Michaud with the intention of selling it through mail-order catalogues. However, it ended up banned in England, Germany, and the director's homeland of Canada... and I'm sure this has helped its cult status along greatly.

I've never seen the original version of the film, but I was recently supplied with a copy of the "Rebirth Edition" by director and co-writer Alexandre Michaud. This will mark the film's debut on DVD, and, as it will be distributed by Sub-Rosa Studios, it may even find its way to a wider audience than ever before.

The recut version of "Urban Flesh" was produced from digitized versions of the original videotapes, and there are a couple of places where the now ten-year-old tapes are showing that they were starting to decay. These are only minor flaws, however, and in general, the film looks pretty good for a shot-on-video film from that period. In fact, I'm very impressed with the overall quality of the movie, given that this was Michaud's first feature. It's a better work than some directors mount on their fourth or fifth tries.

In an interview that's included on the DVD, Michaud mentions that the recut "Rebirth Edition" has been shortened from its original run-time of 100 minutes. I have no sense of what was in the original, but I can say that this is one of those films that I had to take a step back from and acknowledge that I am not its target audience, because if I'd been doing the editing, I may have been tempted to shorten the film even further. Unfortunately, I'd probably have been cutting material that is the very thing that appeals to those who would seek this movie out.

The main point of this movie is its shocking gore, and I think "gorehounds" will get a tremendous kick out of it. As for myself, I found the extended scenes of our modern cannibals munching on entrails somewhat dull. I also found myself wondering if they'd ever heard of blood-born diseases, and if they were big fans of sushi before they took to eating the citizens of Montreal.

If you watch movies for gore, I think you'll enjoy this one quite a bit. If you watch movies for shocks and horror, I think you'll enjoy it as well. The film contains one of the most shockingly repulsive scenes I've ever come across in a movie, and all the way up to the point where it happens, I kept thinking Michaud would back off from it. But then, this IS a movie that was banned in three countries. (It's a scene that involves a pregnant woman and four cannibalistic psychopaths looking for "something different". Think of the absolutely most horrible implication of that, and you'll know what's in this movie.)

However, if you're picky about plot and structure, you might enjoy this movie a little less. It delivers the gore, it delivers horrific moments, and it even delivers some decent performances on the part of the actors, (who, for the most part are excellent at the absolute hardest kind of acting there is: They manage to come across as perfectly natural and as if they aren't acting), but it is very weak in the script department.

The climactic murder and killing session with the cop and his wife come about through coincidence rather than design on the part of the killers... and a coincidence that monumental is harder for me to suspend my disbelief over than that four gore-covered, bloodspattered murderers could wander city streets without attracting police attention, or leaving a trail of witnesses. Adn then there's the problem that the movie ends before it even seems close to being over. Our heroine (Mireille Leveque as the police detective's wife who is tortured and captured by the cannibals) is fighting back... and then the movie just ends. We don't learn her final fate, we don't learn what happens to all the killers... the movie's just over and way too many threads hanging for my tastes. (It DOES end on a very creepy image... but I still would have liked something that came close to approximating an ending.)

For all my complaining, however, I think this is a decent movie. In fact, it may even be a good movie, as it did leave me feeling creeped-out and just a little sickened. I'm certain it's a work that should appeal to its "gorehound" target audience, and it will even have an impact on those who aren't neccesarily big fans of gore (like me).