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DEFENCELESS

A recent shot-on-video feature by Australia’s Mark Savage that’s likely his best film.  It’s an arty, dialogue-free variant on revenge potboilers like I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE and LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT, set on and around the scenic Australian coastline.  The title, obviously, is ironic. 

The Package 
     If you’ve never heard of Mark Savage you’re not alone; I hadn’t either until the release of Subversive Cinema’s 2006 “SAVAGE SINEMA FROM DOWN UNDER” DVD set featuring the Savage opuses MARAUDERS (1987), SENSITIVE NEW AGE KILLER (1999), STAINED (2006) and DEFENCELESS: A BLOOD SYMPHONY (2004).  All were shot on extremely low budgets and are jam-packed with sex and violence.  Unfortunately, they’re not all particularly good, proving that energy and enthusiasm aren’t always enough to ensure a successful film (this is particularly true of the filmmaker’s less-than-auspicious debut MARAUDERS, which according to the packaging was “bootlegged for over twenty years” even though it’s only existed for nineteen).
     DEFENCELESS is the stand-out, having been shot with very little money around the coasts of Victoria, AU by Savage, who acted as writer, director, cinematographer and editor.  His brother Colin, a fixture of Savage’s films since MARAUDERS, appears in the cast and co-producer Susanne Hausschmid headlines.  Hausschmid previously worked with Savage on the erotic thrillers FISHNET and TRAIL OF PASSION--no, I haven’t heard of those films either!

The Story
     An attractive woman finds herself in the sights of three wealthy land developers who want to tear down her beachfront home.  She refuses to sell her property and so the developers, who also dabble in kiddie porn, initiate a ruthless campaign of violence and intimidation.  First they kill the woman’s husband and her young son; she’s chastised but refuses to bow to their demands, assuaging her grief by initiating a lesbian relationship with a young woman living nearby.  The determined developers promptly kill the young woman but our heroine still refuses to bend, and so the murderers set their sights on her, drowning her on a beach after a vicious gang rape.
     A bit later a young girl, terrorized by her abusive stepfather, discovers an apparently dead body on the beach where the heroine breathed her last.  It turns out the body belongs to our heroine, who’s somehow risen from the dead...and now has an insatiable craving for human flesh!  She strikes up a friendship with the girl, which ends up short-lived when the girl’s stepfather strangles her to death.  The now-undead protagonist witnesses the act and makes the perpetrator her first victim. 
     Next she goes after the three guys who killed her.  One of them she hacks up and another gets his cock mutilated; as for the ringleader of the trio, he’s tied spread-eagled to a bed frame and forced to eat his own severed dick!  Our cannibalistic diva further stokes her hunger by devouring the flesh of her victims, after which she heads back to the sea and disappears therein.

The Direction
     This film, as outlined above, is notable for the fact that it contains NO dialogue and very little sync sound, a gutsy choice that pays off.  The soundtrack is dominated by a disarmingly serene score by George Papinocalaou that’s a big improvement over those of Mark Savage’s other pictures (cheesy synthesizer muzak being a sore point of the SAVAGE CINEMA DVD set), and there are even some cues lifted from Mozart’s REQUIEM that work quite well.  The nuanced digital photography is also above-average, with a slick, professional sheen.
     As in all his features, Savage is mighty generous with the sauce, giving us flesh slashing, penis whacking, strangulation, child abuse and a disturbing bout of self-mutilation.  The picture isn’t subtitled A BLOOD SYMPHONY for nothing. 
     Much of the red stuff, though, is patently fake: there’s only so much a filmmaker, even one as bloodthirsty as Savage, can accomplish on such an obviously limited budget.  Luckily violence isn’t all this film has to offer.  It has an artful--and arty--nuance you won’t find in too many other SOV gorefests.  But I’d advise against taking the proceedings too seriously, as DEFENCELESS ultimately delivers exactly what it promises and little more: a tough, nasty little revenge potboiler--and as such it works.


Vital Statistics

DEFENCELESS: A BLOOD SYMPHONY
Subversive Cinema/S&M Productions 

Director/Screenplay/Cinematography/Editing: Mark Savage
Producers: Mark Savage, Susanne Hausschmid
Cast: Susanne Hausschmid, George Gladstone, Erin Walsh, Anthony Thomas, Bethany Fisher, Colin Savage, Richard Wolstencroft, Nikita Fisher, Mitchell Turner, Craig Sayers
 


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