PLOT: Six college grads vacationing in Lithuania are unceremoniously met by a sadistic tattoo artist with a historical penchant for collecting skin-trophies. Anarchy indeed!
REVIEW: A few years beyond expanding his short screenplay RAZE into the ferocious cat-fight feature uproar, Kenny Gage has joined forces with another tyro, Devon Downs, to draw up their delectably torturous directorial debut ANARCHY PARLOR. Starring longtime character actor Robert LaSardo as The Artist - a calm, smooth, suave...yet serenely sadistic, self-flagellating lunatic - ANARCHY PARLOR elevates above and distinguishes itself from the maddening crowd of gorily listless torture outings that have flooded the market in the wake of HOSTEL the last 10 years or so. With an exotic locale, sumptuous cinematography, gorgeous gals, a surplus of boobies, gallons of grue, and an unforeseen third-act plot-twist...the totality adds up to a surprisingly above-average sum. Really, this is one PARLOR bound to leave an indelible mark!
Amy (Tiffany DeMarco) is a stunningly zaftig recent college grad bound for med-school in a few months. She and five pals - Brock (Ben Whalen), Jessie (Jordan James Smith), Kelly (Claire Garvey), Kevin (Anthony Del Negro) and Stephanie (Beth Humphries) - are in the throes of enjoying a vacation in a picturesque Lithuanian metropolis. At a dance club, blitzed on booze, frat-boy-douche-bag Kevin is advanced upon by the sexily pierced and inked blond Goth chick Uta (played by real life Finnish tattoo artist Sara Fabel). When Uta wants to lure Kevin back to her tattoo parlor for a little sexy time, Amy takes the opportunity to finally let loose and become adorned by that rite-of-passage body art she's always wanted. After-all, what about following a an agro-creepy Goth babe into a strange domain fraught with needle-guns could ever go wrong?
Turns out, plenty. In a wonderfully sedate but equally menacing turn from acting-vet Robert LaSardo, we soon meet The Artist - a bald, goateed, ink-swaddled tattoo-man who runs a shop simply called The Parlor. Amy is warmly welcomed. As soon as Uta leads Kev downstairs into a dark subterranean lair that resembles a medieval dungeon, The Artist puts Amy at ease with compassion and sensitivity. I dug the whole diatribe about the sanctimony of body-art being subjugated by trendiness, how people simply wear tattoos as badges or trophies these days. Of course, we'll soon learn that The Artist rocks his own collection of excised, desiccated skin-trophies. But the how and the why is far more alarming than you may think, or even expect. Meanwhile, when Amy and Kevin fail to return to their hotel at night, the four remaining friends come a calling. So...who'll fall victim to the Parlor?
I have to say, for a first time feature, this is one damn entertaining amalgam of slasher and torture iconography. It meets all the requisite checkmarks of a throwback 80s horror joint - a cool location, a harem of buxom nude beauties, buckets of blood, and one or two legitimate "damn that's gnarly" moments sure to sate hardcore horror heads and repulse the weak of stomach at once. I'm talking clitoral mutilation, self-flagellation, extremity-excision, huge swaths of human flesh flayed off the bone, the works! Beyond that, there's a late story revelation that I'm unashamed to say I did not see coming, even if perhaps I should have. Either way, it's a testament to the script and actors involved for not tipping their hands too much and overexposing their true nature. Whether or not it works for you, it's presence alone separates the movie from the rest of the pack.
Now that's not to say this is a great film, or even an original one. Not only is there stints of typical dopey horror movie pratfalls and stilted dialogue, the cavernous trap-and-torture motif is obviously redolent of the HOSTEL movies, right down to the third-act curve-ball, albeit one of the more exemplary imitators. The difference is, in addition to the sure-handed production value and crisp cinematography, the powerful presence of LaSardo as the mild-mannered villain. Here's a dude a remember seeing as a kid in the Richard Pryor flick MOVING, and here is almost 30 years later finally getting a real chance to do his thing. The result, as the plot calls for late, reveals what a nuanced ease LaSardo plays The Artist with. He's got that Hannibal Lecter docility...cool, calm and workmanlike in his sadistic savagery. Without him in this role, the flick would inevitably suffer and fall a few pegs.
Final surmise: ANARCHY PARLOR is of a higher quality than you might think at first blush. Perhaps I feel stronger about that than most having enjoyed it more than I should, but really, extending past the cool storyline and curvy plot-turns, the best thing about the film is how it elicits a sense of halcyon horror glory. It feels like an old-school 80s stalk-and-slash/trap-and-torture joint: a fun vibe, unique location, a dearth of clothing, huge boobies, massive bloodshed, an unpredictable finale and a bar-raising villainous turn by a longtime acting vet. I'm not even a tattoo guy, but here's one PARLOR I can staunchly stand behind.