In reviewing Ogroff, the prestigious New York Times film critic Joseph A. Ziemba wrote that the film was a gore-drenched... European pastiche of American slashers” and I would have to agree. It certainly is not a ridiculous piece of trash that some guy made with an 8mm camera he found at a second-hand store, no, it’s a “pastiche.”
In 1983 auteur Norbet Moutier wrote, directed, and starred in this so-called pastiche, and what a pastiche it is! I don’t know if Moutier believed himself to be a member of the avant-garde or just a guy who liked pretty girls and fake blood but either way he decided to make Ogroff AKA Mad Mutilator
In the history of cinema, there have been many explorations into the nature of editing. There was Sergei Eisenstein’s Battleship Potemkin and Dziga Vertov’s Man With A Movie Camera and of course Moutier’s Ogroff. Unlike the experiments of his Russian predecessors, Moutier did not confine himself to the rational, that would be far too bourgeois! There are sequences of images in Ogroff that look like they are moving through time chronologically but then suddenly they circle back and nullify any rational idea of time. We see a woman exit a car then we see someone else exit the car but then it seems there are two different cars, but then the woman isn’t there anymore and then we see her smoking by the car, and then a child gets out of what looks like a deserted car, or maybe its the first car, or the second, or maybe they are the same car and then all of a sudden the door goes from open to closed and then you just have to let go and allow the images to pile up willy nilly in your brain, or you could just be reasonable and turn it off.
Breaking new ground in the world of editing is only the beginning. Mad Mutilator experiments with acting as well. It picks up with Kuleshov’s experiments and presents us with actors who do not act. Our heroine maintains a blank, motionless face in any and all situations. She is a master of understatement. When she is suddenly confronted by an ax-wielding maniac her reaction shot is the same as if she were waiting for a bus. Like in Kuleshov’s experiments she provides a blank canvas on which we can project our fears and desires. She is a new Brando, a new Cassavetes, boldly or perhaps blandly charting new territory.
Of course, the acting and the editing go hand-in-hand. The boring Hollywood approach involves beginning the scene when the actor begins speaking but in order to bust this convention wide open, Moutier shows us a few moments of the actors waiting for the scene to start before they deliver their line. It’s as if everyone on screen is in a trance and then suddenly wakes up to deliver their dialogue, tres interessant!
Everything about this film is bold and new, except that it is just one big rip-off of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, but that is probably a post-modern statement about re-contextualization like when Gus Van Sant remade Psycho.
The premise of Ogroff is deceptively simple. There is a psychopath living in the woods of Orléans (The old one, not the new one). Anyone who wanders too close to his area meets with a gooey, gory end. Most of the film is either shots of people wandering through the woods, or someone getting stabbed or burned, or eaten. The psychopath even throws a young boy over a tree stump and saws his head off like a log. Of course, there is plenty of red paint to go around. It was probably the lion’s share of the budget, that and a whole bunch of raw meat for the closeups of the mutilation.
Lest we underestimate this masterwork it isn't just an experimental slasher film, or a “pastiche” of an experimental slasher film it covers some weighty subjects through allegorical imagery. Our ax-wielding fiend comes across a lumberjack complete with red and black plaid shirt and a chainsaw. The two men have a mythic-sized contest to the death wielding their phallus of choice. It is all a biting metaphor for the ordinary man's impotence in the face of modernity, either that or its two guys pretending to swing plastic props at each other.
Lest you doubt the gravity of Moutier's discourse the fight scene is followed by the triumphant ax fiend laying at home in his bed masturbating his ax. He shoves it in his groin and then pumps it until he climaxes. The old ways conquer modernity in an affirmation of the ax's virility.
Mad Mutilator is 88 minutes and like any good experimental art film, it is hard to sit through. It’s just one badly lit mutilation after another. To push the envelope of what we will subject ourselves to, Moutier actually reuses several clips. It must be some kind of meta-reference to how we are trapped by the tyranny of time or something about the Marxist alienation of the autonomous self, or Moutier just wasn’t paying attention. Whatever it is it gets kind of mind-numbing.
Then just to keep you on your toes Moutier starts using a doll instead of his actors. It’s just some nondescript 10-inch plastic doll that he places in the foreground and moves through the forest. It’s not like he had a shortage of extras. It looks like there were quite a few people on the set. Maybe the doll had a SAG card and a contract or maybe Moutier thought no one would notice since the doll’s acting skills were on par with the rest of the cast.
Then, since it’s a French film our psycho killer falls in love. Instead of munching on the nice young lady, he finds in the forest he entices her into his bed. The bed that is next to half a dozen axes and a porn magazine centerfold. She seems unexpectedly excited to get down to business and the two become a couple. Naturally, she moves in with him. His shack is decorated inside and out with blood, bones, meat, and filth so she decides to domesticate her new looney lover. She stops him from killing, does the laundry, buries some severed limbs, and does some light dusting.
It’s a parodic treatise on the bourgeois institution of marriage. He traps her and then she traps him. It’s like a Godardian dialectic that pits the masculine impulse against the intuitive feminine paradigm, or some shit. Then it turns out that there is a trap door under the rug where mutilator-man keeps his zombie horde. This of course is a symbol of the couple’s unresolved issues that they have “swept under the rug.” Like Pandora of old, the woman opens the hatch and releases the horde causing all hell to break loose.
The movie just goes on and on with blood and guts and then just before it ends it throws a random vampire in for good measure. I don’t know who this Norbet Moutier guy is but Ogroff was just the first film in his filmography. He went on to make stuff like Hemophilia, Alien Platoon, and Dinosaur From The Deep. Then thankfully he quit and opened a rare book and video store.
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