Monday, September 2, 2013

Cinemasochism: ANABOLYZER (1999)

The fall of the Italian horror industry was pretty damn fast.  One minute we have Lucio Fulci lined up to direct the Dario Argento-produced THE WAX MASK, the next Fulci is dead and Argento is beginning a career slide that he has never recovered from.  It was especially rough on the fans.  Gone were the stylish auteurs (save for Michele Soavi) and workmanlike directors (Joe D’Amato decided the porn world was more stable).  In their place we got guys like Al Festa.  I still have friends who will go slack jawed with a thousand yard stare when you mention Festa’s FATAL FRAMES (1996).  Another director just getting his start during this period was Roger A. Fratter.  Having made the D’Amato documentary TOTALLY UNCUT (1999), Fratter decided to dive into film, uh, video production and ANABOLYZER is one of his earlier works.

The film opens with a woman being attacked in her home by some dude who breaks her neck.  The next scene has rookie cop Max (Giuseppe Cardella) commenting on the killing with his chief, who tells him this isn’t the first murder in their town.  We then cut to an opening credit sequence showing a guy and a girl working out. Uh, okay.  The main plot finally starts kicking in with the introduction of Sandro Kaufmann (Carlo Girelli), a semi-doctor who owns a cable company (as in a place that makes cables) and runs a gym called Hard Game.  And he wonders why his colleagues don’t take him seriously.  You see, he’s been developing an “anabolyzer” steroid to help out people during their workouts.  He spends so much time on it that he neglects his wife Lorna (Irene Giordano), instead opting to sign new clients like model Pamela (Alice Andreis).  His star clients are Monica (Samantha Jameson) and Alfio (Mike Hudson), the couple we saw breaking a sweat in the credits. Okay, it is starting to make sense now.

Did I just say it is starting to make sense?  I take that back.  We next get a series of seemingly unconnected scenes intercut with each other.  Monica beats up two guys trying to pick her up (“She looks like she likes cock” one eloquently says) at the gym; we meet a lady named Sonia (Belinda Sherman) in a bar who responds to her female friend chastising her promiscuous ways by picking up a dude; we get Monica and Alfio getting into a brawl at home; Sonia takes her pickup back home and bites him on the nipple; and finally we get Chino (Brandon Wilde), the killer from the opening, stalking another girl and killing her.  I guess this is to show us that the anabolyzer users are unstable due to the drug, but we don’t know as no one has been shown using it.  We finally get a hint of what is going on as Sandro and Monica talk about how they are using the drug experimentally on Alfio.  Okay, now we’re getting somewhere as Alfio looks to be the roid rage dude.

Damn, did I just say we were getting somewhere?  I take that back.  Chino picks up a red-haired hooker and kills her.  Unlucky for him, Alfio was standing nearby and they fight, resulting in Chino losing his eyeballs and being killed.  Alfio returns home to find his wife Monica in the shower and they proceed to make out until he decides to carve her open.  Then he wakes up!  It was all a dream (the shower bit, not the other killing).  He then goes out to a bar and is picked up by Sonia (remember her?). Back at her place, he ties her up and kills her with a drill.  We then cut back to Max the cop (remember him?) and his chief hands him a videotape.  When asked what is on it, the chief asks, “Have you ever heard of a snuff film?”  Max is apparently the world’s most green cop as he replies, “No.” He then goes to meet his girlfriend, who turns out to be Pamela (remember her?).  She is pissed at him and wants to break up (Fratter eloquently handles this with them talking in a restaurant while a rock song blasts on the soundtrack).  Anyway, Pamela heads to the gym and overhears Sandro and Monica talking about his experiments.  Okay, now I can see where this is going.

Damn, did I just say I could see where this is going?  I take that back.  Next up we get Max and his chief watching the snuff tape, which, surprisingly, features no characters we’ve seen before.  We then get a long, convoluted sex montage that starts with Sandro and Lorna in bed and Monica and Alfio in bed and ends with Sandro and Monica in bed.  They hatch a clever plan of getting rid of Lorna by having Monica initiate a foursome on a drunken night out and then they’ll give Alfio some anabolyzer stuff that will send him over the edge at the slightest hint of sexual arousal.  It goes off without a hitch as he makes out with Lorna in a pool and then drowns her.  Unfortunately, Alfio wanders into the night still raging (although he did put on his shirt) and ends up at a photo studio where Pamela (remember her again?) is doing a shoot.  He puts a screwdriver in her photographer’s head, but Pamela gets away after throwing acid in Alfio’s face.  The next day, the melted face Alfio shows up at the gym and begins chasing Monica.  She runs to a cable factory (YES!  I knew there was a reason they mentioned Sandro owned one) and watches Alfio melt when he finally corners her.  She walks out to find Sandro who says, “You’re still alive?”  She collapses and cries.  The end.

Oh jeez, what the heck was this? ANABOLYZER is the stuff nightmares are made of.  Look, you tell me “killer steroids” and I imagine a badass movie with some muscle bound guy going nuts and punching heads off.  Like RE-ANIMATOR (1985) on steroids.  Instead, I get this mess that barely qualifies as a cohesive movie.  Just when I think something would tie together, Fratter pulls the rug out from under me. For example, remember the cop character Max?  You know, the guy who has a girlfriend Pamela, who is privy to what is going down?  Yeah, he’s never seen again after he watches the snuff tape.  You think you’re getting a “cop hero comes to save his girlfriend” scenario, but instead you get a “killer randomly wanders into a fashion shoot” set-up.  It is as if Fratter is haughtily saying, “I’a no play’a by the’a rules.”  I’d appreciate it if it was subversive, but it is just really poor filmmaking.  This lackluster filmmaking is also on display during the gore scenes, which are pretty amateurish.  The “big” effects scene is when Alfio starts breaking down and spitting up black ooze.  Fratter focuses on it for over two minutes, resulting in something that becomes boring rather than thrilling. The majority of the film serves mostly to film Italian women getting naked on videotape.  I can’t tell you the number of nude scenes that just go on and on.  If I want to watch sexy Italian women getting nekkid on video, I’ll stick with Rocco Siffredi.  Amazingly, Fratter has continued to make movies.  I’m sure the production values have gotten better because they certainly can’t get any worse. Anyway, rest in peace, Italian horror film industry.

Two of ANABOLYZER's only redeeming factors:

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