Thursday, May 19, 2011

DVD Review: Faust: Love of the Damned (2000)

Faust: Love of the Damned (2000)

Label: Arrow Video
Region Code: 0 PAL
Duration: 97 mins
Video: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Audio: English Dolby Digital 5.1, Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
Director: Brian Yuzna
Cast: Mark Frost, Isabel Brook, Jeffrey Combs, Andrew Divoff
Tagline: There are some contracts you shouldn’t sign...

Synopsis: John Jaspers was an artist and a happy man until some thugs snuffed out his girlfriend... Now he’s been driven near insane with the need for vengeance. Aid comes in form of “M”, a mysterious figure who offers him the help he needs for a price... His mortal soul. Jaspers is transformed into a horned demon whose only emotions are the need to slay and the drive to murder. Out of control and out of his mind, the demonic Jaspers cannot be stopped until his lust for the kill is satisfied and those who wronged him have been ripped to bloody pieces...

Film: This film was the first project from Brian Yuzna's Fantastic Factory imprint, it's an ambitious feature based on the graphic novel of the same name by David Quinn and Tim Vigil. Originally the film was offered to director Stuart Gordon (Re-Animator, From Beyond) but eventually it fell to Brian Yuzna.

Faust: Love of the Damned is centered around a painter named John Jaspers (Mark Frost)  who witnesses the murder of his girlfriend Blue. Distraught and unable to cope with the loss he's prepared to throw himself to his death from a bridge when he is approached by a Devilish man named M (perhaps short for Mephistopheles?) played by Andrew Divoff of the Wishmaster films and his femme fatale assistant Claire (Minica Van Campen) who offer him the means to take revenge against his lovers murderers in exchange for his soul. Thus a Faustian contract in signed in blood. Upon signing he is given a set of retractable claws not dissimilar to Marvel's Wolverine, only he has two blades per hand, not three. He tracks down the thugs and takes his bloody revenge. Afterwards Japsers discovers there is more to his Faustian deal than expected, imagine that. M's sends Jaspers to perform assassinations on his behalf, it is during the killing of a roomful of foreign diplomats  that Jaspers is apprehended by Lt. Margolies (Jeffery Combs, Re-Animator, Castle Freak) and incarcerated in a prison psyche ward. It's here that the young psychiatrist Jade De Camp (Isabel Brook, Razor Blade Smile) coaxes him back to reality with music therapy and the two develop an very unlikely relationship during their sessions, how very Harley Quinn.

Jasper's escapes the ward but M is angered by Jaspers refusal to further do his bidding. M kills and buries him but he is resurrected from the grave by Death (?) ...I think, it was a bit confusing but cool to watch. The resurrection imbues him with supernatural strength, horns and a suit that seemed rather Spawn-like in design right down to the billowing cape. I haven't read the comic the film is based on but here the character looks an awful lot like the Marvel/DC crossover character Dark Claw which was an amalgam of Wolverine and Batman. The suit is a bit rubbery and and the claws seem a bit wobbly to be truly menacing onscreen but overall it looks pretty bad ass. Jaspers sets out to stop M's plan to summon a demonic entity known as The Homunculus that will bring about Hell on Earth.

Yuzna chose a very ambitious project to launch his Fantastic Factory imprint and I think he bit off a bit more than he could chew. It's kind of an entertaining mess. Frost is handed some rather cartoonish dialogue and eschews some painfully bad puns, sounding like Wolverine spouting Freddy Kreuger one-liners, it's not as cool as it sounds, trust me. Divoff is pretty decent as the devilish M but De Camp as his vamp assistant painful to listen to at times, luckily she disrobes several times allowing us a brief respite. Brooks also gives a solid performance as the psychiatrist and while it's always a pleasure to watch Jeffery Combs he just doesn't muster up enough bad ass to pull of the tough-as-nails Lt. character.

Bad scripting, terrible dialogue and spotty acting. Okay, it may read like I hate this film, but that's actually not true. The film is quite entertaining and we get some great special effects work from Screaming Mad George, real gooey stuff, too. When M is angered by Claire he turns her into a creature that is nothing but tits and ass, literally. Grotesque, lowbrow and awesome. The cinematography looks great, the set design is ambitious and there's an outstanding Roadrunner Records fueled soundtrack featuring Fear Factory, Sepultura, Type O Negative, Machine Head and Obituary among others though I think it's overused in place of filmscore, I would have liked to heard more of Xavier Capellas' score. The music video editing is pretty rough too, it's too frantic, and not particularly stylish.

DVD: Faust: Love of the Damned is presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen and looks good. The film is very dark and the black levels are decent, a bit murky at times but overall solid. There's English Dolby Digital 5.1 and Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 audio with optional subtitles. It's a good surround mix that at times is overcome by the grinding metal soundtrack, it's a bit too loud at times. So, the film is only okay but the special features are awesome, honestly better than the film. A commentary with Yuzna who offers quite a few anecdotes about the film, it's production, it's shortcoming, etc., not sure if this is a port from the Region 1 Trimark DVD. 'Director of the Damned' is a fascinating interview with the director who recalls pitching the idea of a series of films called the Seven Deadly Sins to Dimension films, based around the seven deadly sins each film directed by a know 'master of horror', hmmmm, sounds familiar. He then goes onto discuss his inspiration for Fantastic Factory in the films of Roger Corman and Hammer Films, the idea of a series of disparate films all under one branded banner which is what he envisioned for FF which he then founded with the Spanish film distributor Filmax. Yuzna's a very modest man and readily acknowledges himself as a niche b-movie filmmaker.The second featurette 'The Pain in Spain' is a half hour interview with the director of the Sitges Film Festival Angel Sala who gives a brief but informative history of Spanish horror cinema beginning with Jess Franco's The Awful Dr. Orloff right on thru to Paco Plaza's [REC]. It's great stuff with tons of vintage film posters and movie stills. It's the kind of interview you watch with pen and paper in hand scribbling down names of films and directors, intensely interesting stuff. A trailer rounds out the special features.

Special Features:
- Audio Commentary with director Brian Yuzna
- Director of the Damned: Brian Yuzna, Faust and the Fantastic Factory (26:26)
- The Pain in Spain A History of Horror in Hot Weather with Angel Sala, director of the Sitges Film Festival (29:15)
- Original Trailer (1:56)
- Double-sided fold-out poster featuring new Tom Hodge artwork
- Collector’s booklet ‘Brian Yuzna: Maestro of Mayhem’ by author and critic Calum Waddell
- Reversible sleeve featuring brand new Tom Hodge artwork and original artwork

Verdict: I feel like I cut the film apart a bit with the review but as a gory, low-budget film it works, it's an entertaining film with some great gore effects, set design and humor. Plus there's a Cthulu feel to the Satanic ritual summoning of The Homunculus, which I'm a sucker for. 2.5 outta 5

Faust: Love of the Damned is available as a single disc edition DVD or you can grab the Fantastic Factory Presents 4 DVD boxset which includes Romasanta: The Werewolf Hunt, Arachnid and Yuzna's Beyond Re-Animator.

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