Movie Review – Fresh for the Inferno
Flesh for the Inferno is the latest film from Scorpio Film Releasing and the wonderful director Richard Griffin. Teaming up with screenwriter Michael Varrati again (The Sins of Dracula) and many of the terrific Scorpio Films regulars, I expected more of the usual comedy horror the troupe has entertained us with for years.
Only a few minutes in I was reminded that just as often Griffin has chosen to play it straight, with movies like Normal and Exhumed. Flesh for the Inferno is more of a cross between the two; some 80’s-style horror combined with the well-timed sarcasm and humor that elevate Scorpio Films from some of the other independent horror flicks out there. In the process, we get a tip of the hat to such varied chillers as A Cask of Amontillado and the original Evil Dead.
As is often the case, they waste no time and jump right into the fun. The great Michael Thurber brings his Catholic youth group to a run-down Catholic school, which years earlier had been the scene of both molestations and the cruel murder of a group of nuns. The teens are there to clean up some of the mess before construction crews arrive on a future date to begin renovations. Little do they know they are soon to encounter the vengeful nuns, who have pledged their souls to Satan in exchange for revenge.
Many of the Scorpio regulars appear. Jamie Lyn Bagley is Meredith, an over-pious snide group leader. Jamie Dufault is Noah, Michael Thurber’s nephew who happened to visit during church group weekend; lucky him. We even get appearances from Sarah Nicklin as a soap-opera-obsessed prostitute and Aaron Andrade as…well, as a rather evil individual.
The real powerhouse in this movie is Anna Rizzo as Kat. Granted, she gets some of the meatier scenes and best lines, but if she couldn’t handle them they’d be wasted. She quickly jumps back and forth between terror and sarcasm with ease. Jamie Lyn Bagley’s character also is fun to watch, and Michael Thurber beings the skills he always does. Thurber is truly a talent; whether he’s playing Dr. Frankenstein, Dracula, or a role that requires more nuances he always seems to hit the nail on the head. Here he walks the tightrope of friendly, upbeat, pious and throws in just a hint of uncomfortable creepiness. Too much of any of these ingredients would cause him to lose his balance and fall to the ground below, but as always he crosses safely. Scorpio is lucky to have him.
The effects are much gorier than many of Griffin’s films, and rather well done. I found the possessed character who bashed its head over and over into a window until the entire face was flattened to be deliciously gruesome and disturbing. Something else that happens with that body soon afterwards confirmed my suspicion that it may have been homage to The Evil Dead.
There are some of the usual running jokes I’ve grown to expect and enjoy in most of Griffin’s films. There’s a gag about whether one of the characters is gay, another about whether people are REALLY sure a corpse was dead, and there’s a character who spends half his time assuming every female wants to have sex with him and the other half fascinated with banging pots and pans together in the kitchen. Varrati keeps the humor tight and intelligent, but not to the point of taking himself (or the characters) too seriously.
Richard Griffin has managed to avoid the trap he set for himself when he built his reputation from early successes like Pretty Dead Things and the masterpiece Disco Exorcist. Instead of going Troma and making every film formulaic, he continues to vary his choices and experiment with different flavors. Like a great wine or a delicate perfume, his films have a variety of aromas and ingredients. He has his favorites which help identify his signature, but even they can be moved around to a new level within the finished product. I look forward to the upcoming Accidental Incest and Seven Dorms of Death to see what new concoctions he has cooked up.