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Fantasia Review: In a Valley of Violence
Markus is a Satanist whose pappy recently passed away after trying to find a portal to hell before his death. Along with his wife and their little girl, Markus moves into his old man's house. There, the family decides to keep Markus' daddy's legacy alive by continuing his unfinished business. This unfinished business involves a series of "rituals" and gallons of gore, brutal torture and other fun stuff.
Actor/writer/director Ron DeCaro returns to give gorehounds the final installment of his Brightside Trilogy in THE GATEWAY MEAT, which truly is the gateway to your dose of bloody meat. This is a film of extremes. On one side, you have Markus and his family in casual shots of their home life, and on the other, you have some truly heinous violence and disturbing gore that begs the question: Is this gore for the sake of gore? I had never seen DeCaro's previous films, so I can't say much about his previous efforts. Then again, if they're anything like THE GATEWAY MEAT, I'll give them a whirl. I just won't have anything to eat beforehand.
Don't get me wrong, I love gore in my horror films. It's a part of that release you get from a scare or tense moment. But there are films like MURDER-SET-PIECES that sensationalize and gloat over their gore content obsessively, to the point that the entire movie is practically made of gore shots and not much else. If you're wondering if GATEWAY MEAT is one of those films, it's not. DeCaro manages the balancing act between story and quiet moments and the extreme, brutal gore quite well. But when I say the gore is brutal, it's brutal. Combined with some off-the-wall visuals, you'll be thinking about what you saw at the same time saying how gory it was.
The film feels very voyeuristic in its approach, and you sometimes feel like you want to escape the situation but can't. It reminds me of the hotel scene from THE DEVIL'S REJECTS, in that you have a front-row seat to a truly uncomfortable moment, but you can't turn away. It's both effective and disturbing at the same time. This gritty atmosphere is made all the more disturbing by that fact that DeCaro cast his own daughter in the film as part of this wacko family. Obviously, she wasn't exposed to the actual scenes being filmed, but the way that DeCaro had the film edited, you'd swear that she was right there. Sort of like LEATHERFACE and its little girl, though nowhere near what is in THE GATEWAY MEAT.
Clocking in at just over an hour, there are some weak points to this one, namely the character development lacking in spots, as well as due to the amount of gore you see, there is a potential to become numb to it for the duration of the film. I doubt that would happen, though, since it's not every day you see someone's nipples hooked up to a car battery, or had their tongue pulled out through their slit throat (called a Colombian/Italian/Cuban necktie, for you trivia buffs). That of course leads to the question of whether you're prepared to witness some of this stuff, since the effects for the film were done by the same guys (Aaron and Ben LaBonte) who did the effects in AUGUST UNDERGROUND, and you know the stuff that went on in that film.
Still, DeCaro does successfully juggle the story and the gore, and provide viewers with the stomach to witness it, a film that questions just how bizarre and evil some people are. That, or just an excuse to demonstrate some truly nasty gore effects. Either way, the film isn't for every horror fan, and while it'll be a while before I see it again, those of you who crave this stuff won't be disappointed.
Video: Presented in anamorphic 1.78:1 widescreen, the film looks quite good, having been shot in HD. Good colour saturation and contrast, with no colour bleeding (no pun intended). Obviously, the film can't shake its low budget look, but what's here is quite good.
Audio: The Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo track is clean and clear, with no distortion or hissing to be found.
Being that this film is only available from Ron DeCaro's For the Better of Mankind Productions and limited to 1000 numbered copies, DeCaro certainly makes it worth your while with the amount of extras included.
First up is an audio commentary with Ron DeCaro and members of the cast and crew, which is wonderfully informative and entertaining to listen to. Everyone chimes in to discuss their thoughts on the film, as well as the lengths they had to go through to get this movie made.
Next is a 35-minute doc entitled Making The Gateway Meat, which is pretty extensive in illustrating to viewers the work put into it, including the scouting of locations, as well as showing for the uppity types that yes, DeCaro edited his daughter into the film, and that she wasn't actually there for the gory scenes. The doc also includes a segment (my fave) with DeCaro discussing the effects with the LaBonte brothers, showing how things were done.
Rounding things up is The Bahtoe Auditions, which takes a look at the audition footage for the role of Bahtoe, a behind-the-scenes still gallery, two trailers for the film, as well as some Easter Eggs for those of you who like to snoop around.
The film is definitely not for everyone, and while the gore may be off-putting to even the hardest of gorehounds, it's balanced nicely with the story and atmosphere. It not my cup of tea, per se, but I can see the effort that went into putting more than just the red stuff onscreen. Add to that some great extras, and you have a DVD that's more than just a plasma parade.