Remembering the oddball world of underground video production, tape trading and sexploitation splatter movies.
Once upon a time, before virtually every film ever made was available quickly and easily via the wonders of the internet, film fans had to be a little more surreptitious in order to get their hands on the kinds of movies that were unlikely to see a cinema release, much less find their way into Blockbuster Video. One of the ways to do this was by scouring the classifieds in horror mags, hoping for some kindly soul willing to do you up a copy of whatever they had in their own collection. This used to mean someone filling a video cassette with what you fancied, bearing in mind the quality ratings which would go from ‘1 – excellent’ through to the more usual 4 or 5 – ‘bloody awful’, like watching someone getting decapitated (or what-have-you) in a snowstorm. But it was hard-won, and as such, all the more worth having. I could even head into an aside here about how The Texas Chain Saw Massacre looks way better refracted through the scuzz and fuzz of multiple copyings…
Anyway, I was delighted when, about ten years ago, I wrote to an old film dealer on a whim, despite not having bought anything off them since the Nineties when DVDs were just a twinkle in the film fan’s eye. I expected nothing; what I actually got was a letter back, after my letter had been delivered to the bloke’s former address and passed onto him by his ex-wife. Serendipity! The bloke in question had modernised, and now offered a colourful array of filth and grue on DVD, sending me a vast list of pretty much anything you could ever have heard of – and a few hundred titles I’d never heard anything about at all. Faced with the agony of choice, once I’d signed on for the entire Guinea Pig series and a few Mondo things that had hitherto evaded me, I decided to pick out a few films based on the titles alone. Hence, I got my hands on a burned copy of a film called Gorotica, because I figured any film with a title of that calibre had to be worth a look.
Turns out it was – though I’m not about to claim that Gorotica is one of those undiscovered treasures, simply crying out for a glossy release. I mean, I’d probably buy that on principle, but even with the explosion in availability, remasters, rediscovered footage, talking heads interviews and so on, there are still many, many films that will never get that treatment, and in many cases, that is utterly fair. I think the world would be a more hopeful place if around 90% of the indie zombie films made with the help of one’s friends wandering around in the invariably stained, white button-up shirts were ploughed into the foundations of railway bridges everywhere. That all being said, it looks as though the brave folks at SRS have put out at least one no-frills version of the film on DVD, and – rather unbelievably – Blu-ray – and it’s to their credit. Gorotica certainly doesn’t deserve to disappear, but I can also sincerely see why it has faded largely into obscurity; it probably never rose very far from obscurity in the first place, and its plot is not one which would ever really endear it to the masses. Here’s why.
We start as we mean to go on, with a young woman getting off to scenes of death and torment on her analogue TV screen. It’s nice to see analogue tech on screen because that’s all there was, by the way, rather than because someone born after its heyday decides to cram as much of it into their film as possible for its retro ‘appeal’. Also of note: a woman getting jiggy to death scenes? It seems there’s nothing new under the sun. The woman’s name is Carrie, a necrophile and a goth, and she’s about to cross paths with two very unfortunate men – though, in the case of one of them, he’ll never know anything about it.
Two burglars, Max and Neil, have taken part in a jewel heist, which was going really well, right up until when it wasn’t: in a panic when confronted by a cop, Max swallows the diamond, right before being shot dead. Damn. Now Neil has a very dead, very valuable dead body to lug around; if only there was some interested party nearby who was used to handling the dead?
Step forward Carrie, who offers to help Neil out, so long as she can have her wicked way with the remains of his friend – oh, and after that, she would like to pass on the body to a friend of hers, a man with both a flamboyant cape and an AIDS diagnosis who thus prefers deceased partners, so he can avoid passing the virus on (an extreme measure by anyone’s standards). Neil has to go along with this because he needs that diamond. His day just keeps getting worse. And, as if all of this wasn’t enough, the film has a few more tricks up its sleeve…
Gorotica looks very much like a film made on a zero budget, but it’s hard not to applaud the sheer, unadulterated weirdness of it all. Whilst it’s very easy to see links to the Nekromantik films, and perhaps to some extent Return of the Living Dead III with its own rock chick of rather select tastes (both films came out in the same year), Gorotica certainly has a dose of demented ambition. Overall, the Nineties weren’t great for authentically oddball underground cinema, but not without exception; there were still filmmakers out there in the lawless land of indie cinema, hammering away and coming up with strange, challenging content such as this, even whilst being evidently hamstrung by filming issues, with some abrupt cuts and sound issues throughout.
Looking at director and writer Hugh Gallagher’s oeuvre, it seems he very much knew what he liked and – however briefly – he stuck with it, putting out such honest-to-goodness titles as Gore Whore and Gorgasm, writing a book about the filming experience, before apparently disappearing into that good night, at least in terms of directing. Where is he now? Well, it seems as though he has entered the realms of horror movie reviewing rather than horror movie directing, but at least he’s out there doing something he loves.
Similarly, Getty Chasun, the game lass who spends most of Gorotica either entirely disrobed or clad in S&M gear, has disappeared into the ether, too. After a few other performances in similarly clothes-averse productions such as Red Lips, Vicious Kiss and Horror Girl, all made in the mid-Nineties, Getty has seemingly left the world of horror behind, despite qualifying with an MFA in Cinematography shortly after completing her last film in 1997. I think this is a shame, as apart from being bold enough to even be in these films, she was an entertaining presence, a ‘scream queen’ who far more deserved the title than some self-professed scream queens still knocking around. Rumour has it that there was even a limited run of Getty Chasun action figures at one time, part of the promotion for Red Lips. Sadly, I have been unable to find one as of yet; the internet can’t do it all, it seems.
Gorotica is far from perfect, but it stands, for me, as a nice emblem of the joys of exploring a very underground, very underknown range of horror and exploitation films. Illegal and rather dodgy, sure, but at the time, the only real way to further one’s collection, not to mention circumventing the unwanted attentions of the BBFC, who have certainly been handed a large element of power back thanks to the new legitimacy of so many hitherto-lost or buried titles. Of course, in an ideal world, I’d prefer filmmakers to get the deserved credit and remuneration they deserve, and it’s a good thing wherever that situation improves. Despite the relative ease of getting hold of rarities these days, though, and despite all of the good which goes along with that improved ease, it really feels like having to work for your dodgy films was a large part of the charm. Gorotica, for a film about necrophilia and murder, is full of charm. And what’s not to love about a film starring such names as Dingo Jones, Bushrude Gutterman – and Jack Knife?
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