January 9th, 2014

DON’T TORTURE A DUCKLING (1972) **

There is a rash of child murders in a small Italian village. The police eventually label the sultry Barbara Bouchet as their prime suspect. It’s then up to a nosy reporter, played by Tomas Milian to clear her name and find the real killer.

Don’t Torture a Duckling is a rather dull giallo directed by the great Italian splattermeister, Lucio (The Gates of Hell) Fulci. Most gialli live and die by their murder sequences, but since this one involves kids getting killed, they are decidedly not very fun. Fulci, probably sensing that the prospect of offing children wouldn’t go over well, keeps the gore to a minimum. He saves the big gore sequence for last when the psycho killer gets his just desserts. The dude plummets to his death down a rocky hillside, and as he does so, his face scrapes up against the rocks. Giant hunks of flesh get torn off the guy’s face as he falls, which would be pretty awesome, if it wasn’t for the fact that the dummy is so obviously fake looking.

At least Milian gives a pretty good performance and sports a cool Burt Reynolds moustache. And Bouchet is equally fine as the lady who isn’t above suspicion. She also gets a terrific nude scene about ten minutes into the flick and it’s easily the best thing about the whole movie.

AKA: Voodoo.

THE PURGE (2013) * ½

In the near future, crime and unemployment are at all-time lows. People attribute that to the fact that one day a year, everyone can go crazy and commit any crime they like. During Purge Night, Ethan Hawke and his family hunker down in their protected mansion while a gang of thugs in Halloween masks try to break in and kill them.

Your enjoyment of The Purge will hinge on your ability to shut off your brain. I sadly, could not turn my brain off and kept asking so many questions about the film’s central “concept” that it got in the way of me actually concentrating on the flick. In fact, I think I questioned the rules of “The Purge” more throughout its 85 minute running time than the filmmakers did throughout the film’s scripting phase and shooting schedule.

Okay, so in the beginning of the flick, Ethan Hawke is listening to a radio call-in show and a guy gets on there talking about how he’s planning on killing his boss during The Purge. My question is this, what happens if the guy attacks his boss and somehow fails or runs out of time? I hate to be that guy at the morning meeting the next day at work.

Then there’s the boyfriend of Hawke’s daughter. He’s mad that Hawke won’t allow them to be together, so he sneaks into the house with a gun and plans to shoot him. Now, does this guy honestly think his girlfriend will still go out with him if he kills her father? I mean, come on. Sure, he’s exempt from getting arrested because crime is legal on Purge Day, but would any sane girl still consider him dateable? Of course, Hawke gets the drop on him and kills him first, so it doesn’t matter, but still.

Then there’s the global picture. I assume that America is the only country with Purge laws. So instead of wasting your money fortifying your house with high-tech surveillance cameras and expensive lockdown mechanisms, why not just take the family for a day trip to Canada while The Purge is going on?

And what about terrorism? They say ALL crime is legal in the opening. What’s to stop Al-Qaeda from pulling another 9/11 on us on Purge Day?

And don’t even get me started on time zones and daylight savings time.

These questions (and I have many more, trust me) aside, the film itself is not very good. It’s at its best when setting up its premise, but the rest of the flick is pretty flimsy. Much of the middle section of the movie revolves around Hawke’s annoying son sending his drone camera robot (it looks like a deformed extra from Toy Story) around the house. And once the attackers finally break into the house, the action is rather abrupt, and anticlimactic. It just feels like The Strangers 2 or something. And the twist at the end is telegraphed from a mile away.

The very last scene tries to pay lip service to the consequences of The Purge when Hawke’s wife (Lena Heady) forces the home invaders at gunpoint to sit around the living room in a civilized manner. I wish they went further with this idea though. I would’ve liked to seen a scene a few months later where she sees her bloodthirsty neighbors at the grocery store or at the PTA or something. Imagine the awkward possibilities of that scenario. It’s infinitely more entertaining than anything the movie offers.