Jun 2, 2011


When the word "portmanteau" is muttered, film fanatics immediately think aloud Tales from the Crypt, the arguably better Tales from the Hood, or a handful of Hammer Horror projects. Never have I heard mention of DeGenerazione, which brings me to my knees after blindly watching it as it is one of the most critically underrated collections of short films that I have ever bore witness to. Composed of 10 short films either blessed with surrealism or weighty with horror, DeGenerazione walks at a brisk pace through each story, unconnected in nature, with only a mission to provide fascinating spins on common urban mythology. If DeGenerazione were to be known for any two things, it would be that the last short film stars Asia Argento in which she feverishly screams cause for Dario Argento's films or that the technicians and artists appropriated to this gem worked for free - a merit badge, if you will. Opening up on a note of apocalyptic esotericism, our first short film ("pre-credit sequence") begins. Our Guys are Coming is the title and what prophecy it holds. A stammering scientist frantically pleads to an anonymous voice on the phone illustrating the drastic nature of future circumstance when suddenly his phone accomplice gurgles and screams. After this, a knock at the door alerts the scientist, all the while a rousing anarchic punk instrumental begins building to a bloody climax. Following the musical cue, a fist breaks through the door and a group of mutated robotic humanoids enter his apartment wearing DeGenerazione shirts. The good doctor escapes (for now) while the lot of mutated faces look up at the camera and smile - what wonderful bliss DeGenerazione bathes in.

The second short film is entitled Home Delivery in which a woman belittles a postal agency for not delivering a package on time. She then demands that the delivery man, on his only day off, pick up labor again and deliver her package. The post master agrees but on one condition - she be home at 6:30 PM to answer the phone. As it would have it, the woman is absent from her humble abode but her husband isn't. With no prior inclination of what to expect (the package is an anniversary present), he humorously prepares dinner when the doorbell angrily echoes throughout the rooms. Taking up arm with cutlery (this very same thought crosses my mind when the door is knocked upon at questionable hours), the man opens the door to find a large, scarred deliveryman who is past perturbed. The deliveryman exclaims "Leave the door open. I'm coming in" and walks down the hall. Armed with light and playful music as well as the hilarious behavior of the effeminate man of the house, he mutters "Whatever" and closes the door. What follows are remnants of a home invasion sequence without cruel intent, just the idiocy of a man who refuses to ask any questions. Home Delivery is both light and dark, as well as strange. Although it is a memorable short, it's hardly one of the finer presentations DeGenerazione holds.


Just Another Vampire Story is exactly that, although with twisted, homo-erotic roots. With burning counterculture in store for later, a vampire walks along the shore of a beach asking "Have you ever met a drunk vampire?". Transporting the setting to a bar teeming with slave-like boy-toy bartenders, a man notices a vintage-dressed male sitting and sipping alone at a side table. Sending him a drink, the two meet and decide to take their acquainting game back to the young bachelor's pad. It is here where the older gentleman admits to being a vampire, not of the natural mythological kind, but a species of vampire past the cosmos stranded here on Earth - very in tune with addiction and vice. "I have the best Jack Daniels" is the key pick up line. Also, it is not everyday you encounter a film about homosexual vamp-advances, now is it? One of the scenes to follow boasts incredible suspense as the two male figures tease until the harrowing finale (also, on a grander scale of things, enjoyable). Just Another Vampire Story pokes and prods at both the feebleness of vampire lore and the flamboyancy of the modern gay. This short might take an acquired taste to digest properly but all-in-all an entertaining spurt of horror counter-machismo.

Is TV Bad for Kids? is one of the masterpieces contained within DeGenerazione. Haughtily displaying a child at home alone watching television, Is TV Bad for Kids? then juxtaposes the images of a humored child against the stern father demanding the television to be turned off. Concluding the presence of the child is a dinner party of parents arguing the moral decay of children and the harm of television. Several make snide remarks towards the parental practices of each other which makes for a damn fine debate, amongst friends of course. Switching back to the child, now alarmed that her television splurge was cut short by a freak-out shower of static, the girl begins hitting the tube in a vain attempt to get it to switch back on. Fearing boredom, the child slumbers peacefully while the television assumes a purpose of its own and fosters a bewilderingly creepy face as it inches through the hallways - guided as if the combined neglect of every parent was a driving force. The father later scowls over the loss of his television. I, too, would react similarly as the child did had something as terrifying as being stalked by a television with ulterior motives happened to me. "We can't live without a TV!" screams the father, unaware entirely of the horror that hovered through the hallways when they were out getting drunk and entertaining the mass with karaoke. Is TV Bad for Kids? is an exceptional entry in a near-perfect archive of cinematic oddities.

Empty Gift follows suit with a short but sweet message applying a retro-futuristic world, still in shambles, that battles overpopulation with a daily lottery of random numbers being selected to ween the life of any and all individuals, had your luck ran dry. That is to assume luck exists in this bleak world. Part Battle Royale, part Scanners, Empty Gift is weighty, important, and all too conscious of the path we are headed towards. The next brief short is entitled Prospective which follows a path of Italian political surrealism. Contained within is a first-person narrative of a woman discovering a familiar figure clad in a diaper positioned under a large umbrella. Inquiring as to what he is doing, he declares that he has gotten a government job and points to his hat labeled 'Prospective'. Implying fellatio or sexual gratification of the sort, the man hands the woman the umbrella and mentions that he will return. Soon after, the woman begins to levitate and hover across the field, directly overhead of two men carrying a mirror - "Inverse perspective" which may or may not be a "psychiatrist invading her mind".

One of my personal favorite shorts to be found within DeGenerazione is Chain - a title that creates a reality around the general emasculation of men at the hands of the overbearing female populace. Dissecting the fears of all men who are "pussy-whipped", Chain subtlety takes charge of its strong metaphorical content during a bonfire scene in which the brutish and bullying way of men is shown. Several males mock one another for bearing a curfew to his woman, only to have a POV perspective of a woman wielding a leash, hook into the collar of one of the verbal teasers and drag him off. Noticeably distressed by this, the lead character offers the suggestion of going to a nightclub and grabbing drinks - the freedom of so-called "free birds". The bar scene is the catalyst to domination. Chain makes a great defense by comparing and contrasting the nocturnal activities of both sexes. Men blow foam off of pints and lick buffalo sauce off the side of their lips as women bend and sway, presenting their allure by way of self-objectification. Our lead begins to flirt his way to a pack of she-wolves when he notices they are adorned with chains and leashes. This is one of the few, if not only, examples I can think of in the very specific genre of male horror. These characters aren't so fictional, you'd learn. Just like many of us, they lower themselves to domination - it appears unnatural on film, as it is, but you wouldn't bat an eyelash had you seen anything similar out in public. The dark and strange culture of ownership, the charade men commit to, and the incessant demands of the fickle feminine disease - all these things are given a face within Chain and what a wonderful exhibition it is.

India 21 is the title of the next short, one of which bears a significant power in our post 9/11 American culture. Taking place almost entirely in a taxi cab, a man is stricken with dismay as he discovers an invisible entity in the back of his seat demanding to be delivered to a certain location, you know, as most passengers would request. The cab driver of India 21 is almost sure of a microphone being hidden somewhere but nothing is to be found except the briefcase in the backseat which carries a disembodied voice barking out commands. Out of all the shorts within DeGenerazione, India 21 manages to be one of the more powerful and pertinent to today's news. I sadly don't have much more to say as this happens to be a short that depends on a viewing in order to critically assess it and to cherish what surprises it carries. Finally Together accompanies the collection next which plays out similarly to the formula of Lars von Trier's later Antichrist - a tale of a couple on retreat in the forest in which death and fury follows. After witnessing an act of cruelty against an animal, the woman refuses to accept killing hands. Though similar in ways to Antichrist, the ideologies are different. Finally Together embraces the feline and feminine while the man fears the death of intellect. Both have strange visions and phobias of each other harming one another and hopes to settle down after brutality purifies them. Only then can they be "finally together".

The final short film is Squeak! in which punk rock assassins/fledgling filmmakers decide to film a snuff movie out of their target. Bashing typical horror tropes with satire, lines like "Chainsaws are outdated", Squeak! is the perfect postcard of DeGenerazione which highlights the oft-anarchic and belligerent nature of this anthology. Squeak! also features Asia Argento who calls her fellow crusty rock-filmmakers "fucking pigs of whores" while proclaiming her assumed ex-lover lover named Cyclops to be better partners in crime. "We watch movies...Dario Argento!" Wrapping up with a romantic getaway, DeGenerazione represents the highest peak of hidden gems. It really is a shame a film which juggles intense genius and a lack of sensitivity is so incredibly rare and has been swept under the mat of cult films. Also brimming with punk commercial attitude and a likewise soundtrack, DeGenerazione spreads its dusty cheer onto every witness of its splendor. I implore any and all to track down this video library of mutated expressionism as it happens to be one of the more surprising viewings I've had in a similar genre. 



Soiled Sinema said...

Directed by
Antonio Antonelli (segment "Catene")
Asia Argento (segment "Prospettive")
Pier Giorgio Bellocchio (segment "Arrivano i nostri")
Eleonora Fiorini (segment "Finalmente insieme")
Alex Infascelli (segment "Vuoto a rendere")
Antonio Manetti (segment "Consegna a domicilio")
Marco Manetti (segment "Consegna a domicilio")
Andrea Maula (segment "Just Another Vampire Story")
Andrea Prandstraller (segment "India 21")
Alberto Taraglio (segment "La TV fa male ai bambini")
Alessandro Valori (segment "Squeak!")

jervaise brooke hamster said...

All Italian so no problem ! ! !, although i didn`t like those vampire faggots obviously.

jervaise brooke hamster said...

I want to bugger Asia Ar-lady-o (in 1993 when the bird was 18, not as the bird is now obviously).

Anonymous said...

I thought a "portmanteau" was a suitcase?

Soiled Sinema said...


jervaise brooke hamster said...

Hey, Anonymous, the word is "port-GIRL-teau".