Monday 4 October 2010

Holocaust Holocaust (2008)

Director: Sofian Khan
Stars: Kitty Cole, Kris Eivers, Suzi Lorraine, Noshir Dalal, Bill Weeden, Randall Heller, Manuel Fihman and Theodore Bouloukos

Cannibal Holocaust spawned a hundred Italian movies called Cannibal Something but director Sofian Khan went the other way. He went for Something Holocaust instead but to emphasise how much of a holocaust it was he called it Holocaust Holocaust. Subtle, huh? Perhaps realising how well that would go down with the Jewish audience, he later gave it a new, less outrageous title: Destined to Be Ingested, which was previously the tagline for the picture. Yeah, not much less outrageous, huh? Surprisingly that's also as inaccurate a title as it is a descriptive one because not a single one of the main characters is eaten. Sure, it has plenty of cannibals and zombies, but it turns out to be more of a character driven jungle romance unfolding in a foreign language with subtitles, very possibly an imaginary one. Both its biggest success and its biggest failure is in not having the faintest clue what it wants to be. Every ten minutes it becomes something else.

To emphasise how subtle the white folk are, we're quickly treated to the lead actresses returning to their boat from a snorkelling trip. Anna wears a see through bikini and Sandy has one that reveals through design rather than fabric. They're both lovely young ladies but their choice of men is truly scary as their partners are unappealing in the extreme. Anna's Tom is a jackass and Sandy's Chester is a jackass with a belly that puts mine to shame. There may be a shark in the water but do sharks really attack whales? Anyway, this quartet are heading for a South Pacific holiday resort but the captain is as lost as you might expect a fat Mexican captain called Macho to get. He pulls in at what appears to be a desert island, only to head for the horizon when he sees his fares murdered by cannibals on the beach. That's a shame as actor Manuel Fihman is the most fun part of the scenes on the boat and he could have been fun on the island too.

Anna is Kitty Cole, debuting in film after a bit part in a TV movie in 2002. She plays the central part, co-wrote the script and designed the costumes too, so along with director and co-writer Sofian Khan, this is emphatically her film. She's a capable actress but a subdued one, perhaps appropriately given the part she plays, that of a long suffering woman who has more patience than sense. There are real possibilities to her role, unlike that of Tom, who is doomed to failure from moment one, and she grows as a character throughout. Her past is explained through a dream sequence that Tom has on the island, bizarre in that it unfolds entirely in black and white except for what's on the TV, which is shown in colour. It would seem that she's a lottery winner, so perhaps financed this trip, but the night of her win is the night Tom gets into a drunken car crash and proposes to her over the phone while needing her to bail him out of jail.

We don't know if they get married or not but the film begins four years later when he's sobered up and apparently turned his life around. Unfortunately he's just as annoying. He's depressing even when trying to be optimistic and he's not too optimistic given that he gets news by satellite phone that the stock market has crashed and they've lost everything. He gives his girl nothing but orders and trouble. 'Eat your sandwich,' he tells her. 'Pick up your bag.' I wanted to slap him constantly because she doesn't seem capable of doing it and really should have done. He does exhibit the odd bit of charm on occasion, like when he sits on the pitiful attempt at a raft that he builds and bursts out laughing because it promptly sinks. Unfortunately he then turns back into a jackass and that's it for charm. I cheered when he was discovered by Kohi the cannibal, who shoots a blow dart into him and lets him sink into the sea.

As bad as Tom is, he's more attractive than Chester, who must be insanely rich because there's no way otherwise that he could ever land anyone as young and gorgeous as Sandy. She just has to be a trophy wife or paid companion, so has little substance, even though she's played by the lovely Suzi Lorraine, a busy latter day B movie queen who has racked up almost fifty credits to her name in less than a decade. She's as thoroughly pleasing to the eye as Chester isn't, given that Theodore Bouloukos seems to be attempting to look as unattractive as is humanly possible. He's grossly fat but spends most of his time in a pair of swimming trunks and a terrible wig that he has to hold on with a headband. He's addicted to cocaine, he snores, he hurls racist abuse at the captain and it's impossible to come up with a single redeeming characteristic except that it doesn't take too long for him to get speared in the gut and sacrificed to a cannibal god.
Unfortunately it wasn't soon enough. I don't want to judge Theodore Bouloukos or Kris Eivers on their performances here, as they play Chester and Tom respectively to perfection, but I was very happy to see both characters quickly disappear from the story. Unfortunately with Chester went Sandy, who I was hoping would become a worthy character once her sugar daddy was disposed of. As much as I enjoyed watching Suzi Lorraine, she was given precisely nothing to do here, perhaps explaining just how she's been able to rack up so many credits so quickly. All these characters being disposed of so quickly merely highlights how important Anna is to the story and she promptly hooks up with the cannibal who killed Tom. Fortunately he's well worth watching, actor Noshir Dalal playing Kohi like a performance art piece, leaping over the scenic rocks of the British Virgin Islands like a dancer. He's the best thing that's happened to Anna in years.

He's also the best thing that's happened to this film since Suzi Lorraine climbed out of the water onto the boat, an elegantly painted savage who soon turns out to be the son of the local chief. In fact this is where the film truly betrays its schizophrenia. It's as if Cole and Khan wrote separate scripts and then vainly attempted to combine them into one. On the masculine side it's a violent story of cannibals and zombies and death, but on the feminine side it's the stuff of pulp romance novels, with a misunderstood woman shipwrecked on a desert island and rescued by a heathen hunk who she can civilise with her love after learning his language and not teaching him a word of her own. Sure enough, six months later she's pregnant and when Kohi takes her back to his village, his father is pissed. Fortunately he quickly dies of some horrible disease so Kohi can succeed to the position of chief and enforce his own style of leadership. Convenient, huh?

I find it strange that this male horror fan finds himself drawn to the feminine side of this film more than the masculine one, but it's only when Anna and Kohi get together that we're treated to something of substance to watch. The debauchery of the early scenes is as gratuitous as it's pointless. There's just no need for any of it, especially as none of it is explicit. All the best bits are the ones that didn't happen, because Suzi Lorraine doesn't get naked and the shark doesn't get Chester. The first bits of fun are when we arrive in the romance portion of the film. Kohi tries to court Anna with a flower, eating it when she runs away. When she realises his good intentions and introduces herself, we discover that Anna is the native word for 'chin' and he bursts out laughing. He thinks she looks like a fallen goddess, even though he has to paralyse her with a blowdart to make her pay attention. At least there's a point here.

These scenes benefit from two other key factors beyond the acting of Cole and Dalal. One is the fact that they unfold in a foreign language with subtitles, serving as a clear delineation between the world that Anna has left and the one that she's found herself in and posing questions about happiness and civilisation, though hardly in depth. The other is the British Virgin Islands, which demonstrate a wild variety of contours and textures to be picked up on by the cinematography. The rocks seem to have been thrown around by behemoths in an attempt to build avant garde cave systems. Noshir Dalal has fun leaping around it all and the cameraman has fun trying to keep up with him. Unfortunately it's not destined to last as more generic nothingness is on the way. Sure, cannibals fight zombies, but we just don't care. This film doesn't work as a horror movie, it only works as a romance and how many romances are called Destined to Be Ingested?

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