The 13th Floor

CINEMA IN EXTREMIS: I (Barely) Survived a VIOLENT SH*T Marathon! [NSFW]

Happy Friday, fellow extremiacs! Put on those rain ponchos, ‘cuz you’re gonna get a little red on you again.

When I first launched this column a couple of months ago, I made a point of emphasizing the concept of extreme horror movies as “outsider art,” expressing some bold and unconventional ideas through the medium of strong graphic horror, violence and explicit sexual content. It’s a long tradition, dating back to the days of classical Greek Theatre, and I’ve explained the principle behind it in my original article [check it out here — lots of cool movie recommendations in there too].

But that doesn’t mean I can’t take a slightly lighter tone once in a while, and revel in the enthusiasm of outrageous bloodbaths by filmmakers like Brian Paulin (CRYPTIC PLASM), who choose to push the graphic horror envelope for the sake of purely outrageous and gasp-inducing entertainment.

It’s the equivalent of a really frightening roller-coaster ride — it’s not quite intellectually enlightening, but it certainly delivers on its promise to freak you out so much that you’re left reeling in shock for hours afterward. It also serves as a gauntlet, flung defiantly in the face of the censorious powers-that-be.

One of these confrontational filmmakers is Hamburg’s notorious micro-indie gore auteur Andreas Schnaas, whose career began (in part, at least) as a response to strict censorship by the German government toward movies depicting extreme violence.

Along with other notable extreme-horror auteurs like Jörg Buttgereit (NEKROMANTIK), Schnaas helped establish Germany’s scattered but dedicated “gore underground,” whose tools were cheap but newly attainable, and whose screening venues could be found in underground movie clubs, bootleg tape-exchanges and other private screenings.

In 1987, eighteen-year-old Schnaas took it upon himself to obtain a cheap video camera, round up friends and family, and create a silly but fun backyard splatter feature called VIOLENT SHIT — which joins its multiple sequels and spin-offs in a newly released three-disc-DVD collection, remastered (as best as possible) and distributed by Synapse Films.

So we’re talking about 380 minutes of… well, violent shit, basically.

[In an intriguing side note, the title of the series came directly from correspondence between Schnaas and one of his pen-pals — a New Zealander named Ant Timpson, who would later go on to produce THE ABCs OF DEATH, DEATHGASM and TURBO KID.]

At least Schnaas and Synapse are truly delivering on the lurid promise of their advertising; I obviously knew what I was getting into (I’d previously seen two of the films a long time ago at a convention), so I decided to get as comfortable as possible and screen the whole damn collection at once.

Yeah, I know… that probably wasn’t the best idea, but no one’s gonna claim I’m not 100% dedicated to my job.

Shot entirely on 8mm video stock (mostly outdoors in broad daylight), featuring home-grown practical gore effects and laughably dated digital postproduction gimmicks, the original 1989 VIOLENT SHIT at least delivered on the promise of its tacky title, pitting deformed childlike mass-murderer “Karl the Butcher” (played by Schnaas himself) against a variety of random victims, who exist for no other reason than to be messily slaughtered on camera. [This scenario is nearly identical to that of the earlier French slasher OGROFF, which I covered previously in my SLASHBACK column.]

Karl’s practically nonexistent backstory apparently involves childhood mistreatment by his mother, which seemingly prompts the Devil himself  to reveal his lecherous, crudely-solarized visage to the boy — offering virtual immortality in exchange for providing the Dark Lord with a steady supply of fresh souls (beginning with Mom, of course).

Or maybe it’s just a product of Karl’s shattered mind… which would explain his frequent and violent seizures, but doesn’t really justify his ability to return from the dead whenever it’s convenient.

For all its crudeness, VIOLENT SHIT actually found an enthusiastic audience… as well as some unwanted attention from German authorities, who banned the film outright, including all copies and screenings.

But that didn’t stop Schnaas’ ultra-gory crusade, as you can probably guess.

Despite its obvious amateurism, VIOLENT SHIT is still a pretty amusing (if ridiculously repetitive) practice run for Schnaas’ significantly higher-quality 1992 sequel, appropriately titled VIOLENT SHIT II: MOTHER HOLD MY HAND.

The filmmaker has obviously upped his game — and his budget, if only slightly — to unleash a far more entertaining follow-up, in which the grown son of Karl the Butcher (I won’t reveal the outlandish details of his “birth” from the first film) sets about continuing his father’s legacy with a new series of random torture-murders — with the encouragement of his mother, who is basically an amalgam of the maniacal matriarchs of FRIDAY THE 13TH and MOTHER’S DAY — two films which clearly influenced Schaaas’ concept (not to mention SHOGUN ASSASSIN, hilariously and pointlessly referenced in the film’s bizarre prologue).

The second film is still my favorite installment in the franchise, thanks to its hysterically over-the-top surrealism and half-assed attempts to frame the story as a crime procedural, with opening and closing segments narrated by a journalist investigating a spate of copycat crimes bearing the same sadistic M.O. as Karl the Butcher’s original ‘70s crime spree, which left dozens dead.

This device is completely abandoned early in the film, and only returns for an even more ridiculous epilogue… but it’s really irrelevant to the plotless mayhem which comprises most of the film’s 74-minute runtime.

Hell, the movie’s worth the admission for the opening title sequence alone, during which the credits are inexplicably projected onto the writhing bodies of several go-go girls, in a twisted DIY homage to James Bond movies, accompanied by a hysterical theme song by German hair-metallers Vice Versa (not to be confused with the UK pop band of the same name).

Despite directing a few more films in the interim, Schnaas didn’t step up his technical game too much over the half-decade between VIOLENT SHIT II and its 1999 sequel — creatively titled VIOLENT SHIT III: INFANTRY OF DOOM — but his creative ambitions appear to have expanded by several orders of magnitude, because this installment is inexplicably set on an unnamed remote island, where the reanimated Karl and Son are now sadistic rulers of the inbred cannibalistic population, capturing unfortunate visitors to the island with the goal of either repopulating their dwindling numbers (if the captives are female), or subjecting them to an ultra-splattery fusion of THE MOST DANGEROUS GAME and APOCALYPSE NOW.

The above description sort of covers what stands for a plot… but don’t worry, the story doesn’t get in the way of the film’s only real goal: to gross you the hell out.

The rubbery dismemberment and gut-spilling are too cartoonish to provoke actual physical revulsion — I’m betting they elicit more belly-laughs than nausea — and that’s actually what makes this installment one of the most entertaining of the series. Schnaas even throws in a band of ultra-violent (but ultimately incompetent) ninjas to keep things interesting.

Though Schnaas did direct other unrelated horror projects (including a remake/sequel to Joe D’Amato’s ANTROPHOPHAGUS), gorehounds had to wait over a decade to see the onscreen misadventures of Karl the Butcher again — this time in a kind of FREDDY VS. JASON matchup. The 2000 release KARL THE BUTCHER VS. AXE liberates the metal-masked madman from the literal depths of Hell to do battle with “Axe,” Karl’s only competitor for the title of most violent serial killer ever to walk the Earth.

In a surprising twist, this fourth installment, which Schnaas co-directed with fellow countryman Timo Rose (BARRICADE), is the first of the series to be shot entirely in English.

Synapse rounds out the collection by throwing in yet another Schnaas epic from 1991, which bears the US video release title ZOMBIE ’90: EXTREME PESTILENCE.

Reportedly shot for around $2000 between the first two VIOLENT SHIT films, ZOMBIE ’90 happens to be one of my all-time favorite party videos — thanks almost entirely to the outrageously goofy English-language dialogue dub; one of the German scientists investigating the zombie outbreak actually sounds like a ‘70s-era pimp!

Okay, well… I made it through this entire collection, and while I’m a bit disoriented, I have to say I had a great time.

Sure, I can’t really label any of Schnaas’ works as legitimate “art,” but I’ll give him all the props for understanding the needs of his bloodthirsty audience — and you can’t say he doesn’t give them exactly what they want: hundreds of gallons of blood-spray, literally flying rubber limbs, scrambled brains, slithering intestines, gonad-munching, and violations of every single bodily orifice (and a few newly-created ones) by sharp and pointy devices that are… well, let’s just say medically inappropriate for the tasks at hand.

VIOLENT SHIT: THE MOVIE (2015)

But hey, when you’re picking up a DVD set that’s clearly labeled VIOLENT SHIT COLLECTOR’S “SHITITION” (yes, they actually call it that), you should really expect to get what you pay for… and for all their amazingly weird flaws and quirks, Schnaas’ movies deliver the gory, greasy, grimy goods in large, overflowing buckets.

Karl’s exploits even inspired a 2015 remake/reboot of sorts (not part of this collection, sadly) from Italian director Luigi Pastore — who seems to be serving up major fan-service for lovers of Italian horror cinema, with appearances by ’80s cult icons like Giovanni Lombardo Radice (CITY OF THE LIVING DEAD). The film even features an original score from iconic Euro-horror composers Goblin.

Check out the trailer:

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