Written and Directed by: N.G. Mount
Starring: Robert Alaux, Françoise Deniel, and Pierre Pattin
Reviewed by: Brett Gallman (@brettgallman)
It takes all of about two minutes for viewers to know just what they’re in for when it comes to Ogroff: Mad Mutilator. A familiar scene presents itself, albeit without a shred of context: some travelers have apparently broken down on the side of the road with a child in tow. Who are they? Are they related? Where are they headed? Only one thing is for sure: this kid is fucking doomed as soon as it walks into the woods, where it swiftly crosses paths with the titular mad mutilator. Not only is he a goner, the film revels in it, as the kid’s dad his also decapitated, and his headless corpse winds up stumbling from the woods to horrify what must be his wife. Nothing about the scene impresses—there is no dialogue, the 8mm photography is roughshod, the gore effects are crude—yet you’re immediately drawn in by the audacity of it all.
This is the sort of unearned confidence that could only derive from the world of homemade splatter movies, where amateur filmmakers were free to operate without the safety net of tastefulness, decency, and competence. Ogroff is another one of these but has the distinction of hailing from France, where video store proprietor and horror fanzine editor N.G. Mount decided to take his enthusiasm to the next step, talent (or lack thereof) be damned. And thank goodness for that, as Mad Mutilator also has the distinction of being one of the wildest, brain-pummeling efforts to arrive out of this gore-soaked tradition.
Even that ridiculous, head-rolling opener might feel unassuming enough for veterans of this particular scene. You’ve likely seen movies that exist primarily as gross-out exercises in provocation and bad taste. They may have even been literally named Violent Shit. Ogroff proceeds more or less in that tradition, at least for a while, as it unfolds without a sliver of plot beyond the mad mutilator (played by Mount) ruthlessly dispatching anyone that crosses his path. When he merely kidnaps and ties up a girl, it practically counts as a wrinkle in the proceedings—not that I could tell you why he did this when he winds up returning to his rustic, run-down abode to kill her anyway. There’s a lot of that going around in Ogroff: despite such a simple (read: virtually non-existent) plot, discerning what any of it means is nearly impossible. Characters roll in and out, mostly existing only to be promptly tossed into Mount’s lo-fi effects grist-mill, and he’s not exactly eager to hold your hand along the way.
Simple cues—like, say, dialogue—might help, but there’s maybe ten instances of actual dialogue in the entire movie. Even it is awkwardly dubbed in, as it’s pretty obvious the entire movie was shot with only ambient noise, presumably because it likely lacked a script. Ogroff doesn’t feel like it was directed so much as it was improvised with both coherence and continuity lurking somewhere near the bottom of the priority list. Like so many of these things, capturing the gore is of paramount concern, so Mount carefully lingers on each makeshift decapitation and every axe to the face. In doing so, he crafts something of a post-impressionist splatter movie, one that dispenses with any pretenses beyond the violence and utter madness guiding it.
And for a while—let’s say about half the movie—it makes for a bewildering experience. In lieu of reasonably expected elements like characters, dialogue, and story, Mount provides dead air, exaggerated foley effects, and a relentless, droning score that sounds like someone fell asleep on their Casio. At times—namely, whenever Ogroff is on-screen doing his thing—it’s charming. At others, it’s a confounding bore that’ll leave you flabbergasted, especially when you check the runtime and discover there’s somehow 45 more minutes of this thing. When it comes to homemade splatter, Ogroff is both the best of times and the worst of times, often swinging between those two extremes at a whiplash-inducing pace. One minute, you’re watching Ogroff (whose gangly awkwardness is more Jason from Friday the 13th 2 than the more self-assured Voorhees from later sequels) savagely murder a couple of chess-players, the next you’re wondering just why in the hell some random woman is asking for directions to Ogroff’s place.
It’s about that time that a seed of doubt plants in your mind. Is Ogroff really going to be this listless, repetitive slasher that invents dumb reasons for victims to stumble into the path of the mad mutilator? And why would anyone willingly seek him out? Now, you may have a reasonable answer to that question, much like I did: surely, this woman is hellbent on seeking to avenge someone who was recently slain by Ogroff. The truth—which I will not reveal because doing so would rob you of the pleasure—is much more unpredictable and delightful. Ogroff springs to screwy life in such a sudden way that its first half feels like a disarming tactic for the delirious sucker punch waiting on the backend. Impossibly, some semblance of plot begins to form, not that Mount is too preoccupied with it since he still refuses to provide dialogue; perhaps even more impossibly, Ogroff: Mad Mutilator morphs into this half-decent riff on The Evil Dead (with a dash of The Burning spliced in).
You’re left wondering if Mount hasn’t just been fucking around this entire time. No, like really. Obviously, Ogroff feels like a goof, but its second half feels like a particularly inspired one. Mount sets you up with that listless, meandering slasher movie for 45 minutes, then proceeds to blow you away with a cacophony of utter madness the rest of the way. Dynamic shots depict an honest-to-god car chase (littered with zombies!), providing more than a hint that Mount’s had this kind of talent lurking within him this entire time. Extremities fly with reckless abandon as Ogroff takes to a motorbike, brandishing a hatchet to mow down the undead. And just when you think you’ve seen everything Mount has to offer, Eurohorror staple Howard Vernon wanders in with a glimpse of further insanity just before the credits roll. You can’t quite call his presence an exclamation point but rather an ellipsis, as Ogroff refuses to make total sense until the end.
Even if your tolerance for this kind of no-budget nonsense is low, Ogroff demands to be witnessed. It might masquerade as your typical homemade splatter movie junk, but in unleashes a flurry of weirdness that elevates it into that rare, almost mystical plane. Despite very limited resources, Mount aspires to achieve more and indulge as many of his whims as possible. A scene where Ogroff masturbates with his axe in his shitty little makeshift home is perhaps the most honest reflection of this especially grungy, DIY scene: Ogroff might have found an audience, but it is clearly the product of some madman toiling away at something so idiosyncratic that it only makes sense to him and him alone. Long lost to the obscure ranks of VHS titles that never made it to DVD, Ogroff recently made the leap thanks to Videonomicon*, a Canadian outfit dedicating to plucking out the weirdest of the weird (for reference, their first release was Science Crazed). Since Mount’s original 8mm negative is long lost, the transfer here is sourced from a videotape that has been remastered and color-graded (the original tape transfer is also an option on the disc, however).
Supplements include a stills gallery, a trailer, and liner notes from Andy Bolus and Joseph Ziemba. While Bolus’s notes do provide some secondhand accounts (taken from interviews on a French DVD release) it doesn’t do too much to demystify this thoroughly strange dispatch, which qualifies as France’s first slasher film. We wouldn’t want anyone actually pestering Mount to provide any sort of details that might actually explain or illuminate Ogroff beyond the lunacy that unfolds on the screen. It speaks in a way that no human language could possibly translate.
*Full disclosure: past OTH contributor Tyler Baptist is a co-founder of Videonomicon.
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