Monday, September 29, 2014

Raw Meat (1973)

 I had been meaning to watch this one for a while.  I bought it last year with every intention of watching it somewhere around Halloween, but I fell behind on my horror movie viewing during the wicked season and Raw Meat dipped beneath my radar.  Anyway, I was in the mood for something gruesome this weekend, so I finally sat down to scope this 70s oddity out.  Was it any good?   It was.  It was also pretty damn disgusting, but it was definitely a quality film.

Equal parts repulsive, suspenseful, and comical, Raw Meat concerns a couple (David Ladd and Sharon Gurney) who find themselves drawn into a sinister web of murder and terror after a strange encounter in a subway station.  They turn to Donald Pleasence as Inspector Calhoun for help, and he takes the case very seriously--while mocking everyone in sight, be they friend or foe.  Pleasence was the best thing about the picture, eagerly gobbling up the scenery and taking his role to such extremes that his efforts here make his work as Loomis in the Halloween series seem positively tame.  In particular, I found the scene where he and his second-in-command get positively smashed at a local bar to be an absolute riot.  This was a welcome distraction, as neither  of our leads--Ladd or Gurney--is ever half as interesting as the zany 70s clothes that they sport throughout the movie.

The direction comes courtesy of Gary Sherman, who is also responsible for the unforgettable cult classic Vice Squad.  His work here, on this earlier venture, is more leisurely and also a bit more precise.  One gratuitous tracking shot that lovingly explores all the corpses in various stages of decay that litter our bad guy's lair is perfectly smooth, incredibly vivid, and seems to go on forever.  This utterly gross and entirely masterful display of prowess proves that a classical approach can yield results that are just as disgusting as unhinged gore maestro Lucio Fulci's most depraved work.  Sherman's pacing here is also spot-on, and there's definitely one major scare in the picture that should have anyone with a pulse jumping out of their seat.  The director also gets some serious credit for crafting a picture that feels very, very British despite the fact that he's an American.  Speaking of which, I recommend turning on the subtitles.  The accents are so thick, and some of Pleasence's best bits are delivered with such ferocity, that much of the dialogue will be all but indecipherable otherwise. 

The score by Wil Malone and Jeremy Rose was perfect for this grim vessel, a subdued ode to doom with a sinister electronic vibe that somehow meshed perfectly with the dank and decrepit undergound setting.  The subways and the various tunnels and stations that appear throughout Raw Meat were used to great effect, giving the picture a potent atmosphere.  The make-up was thoroughly convincing and will surely turn your stomach at several key points.  All the necessary components were in place and everyone hit their marks; the only qualms I could offer up would pertain to the gore and the downer vibe, but that should be par for the course for a horror film about cannibalism beneath the streets of London.  Raw Meat was revolting, it was creepy, and it wisely put Donald Pleasence on center stage with a meaty part to devour.  Despite the disgusting nature of the movie and the downtrodden atmosphere, Pleasence made me laugh repeatedly, and I have to say that I enjoyed Raw Meat.

A very British horror flick directed by an American,
Raw Meat is known as Death Line overseas.

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