Graphic Sexual Horror -- now there's a title that screams for attention. Upon closer inspection, hesitant viewers will discover it's actually a documentary rather than the next step in Hostel knock-offs. Chronicling the rise and fall of an extreme adult website known as InSex, directors Barbara Bell and Anna Lorentzon interview the site's creator, Brent "pd" Scott, several of the models, and a few of the site's fans to try and paint a picture of this mishmash of sex, commerce, and an attempt, at least, at artistic expression.
The primary focus of the film is Scott, who comes off as a fairly intelligent guy, but it's hard to tell if he's doing the documentary to honestly reflect on his experiences creating and running InSex or to "clear his name", as it were, in the public eye. He's perfectly willing to admit that some things went to his head, and occasionally that he crossed the line, but is he genuine? There's something almost too friendly and affable about his attitude towards the whole thing that gets a bit under the skin whenever he speaks.
The models shine a little more light on the subject, but in this area Bell and Lorentzon drop the ball. For the first 50 minutes, the interviews remain largely positive, but the co-directors are manipulating the edit somewhat, saving the actresses' complaints for later. One freely admits that she claimed she was doing it for the challenge, but that she was actually doing it for the money, and that it wasn't even a necessity -- it was frivolous money, that she would blow on non-necessities. Others talk about whether or not pd went too far in either the site's torture scenes or off-camera, where he apparently had affairs with at least one or two girls.
The biggest puzzler, however, is the audience. Even if everyone's taste is as weird as the next person's, exploration of what makes this kind of material appealing to people seems like prime real estate for the documentary to stake out. Sure, pd and some of the models offer up fairly muddled philosophical answers, but that's about as deep as it gets. Bell and Lorentzon could and should assume that the the audience is probably going to split down the middle, between those who know about InSex and those who don't, and given that these women were apparently employees of InSex, I'd say the documentary doesn't offer enough for the latter half (like myself).
Graphic Sexual Horror has a good hook, but it needs somewhere to go from there. Although Bell and Lorentzon have good interviews with key subjects, there's not enough focus. The film is less like a study of something than it is a moving Wikipedia entry; a chronicle of Insex rather than posing any questions about it. If the filmmakers just wanted document every aspect of what the site was and what happened during its existence, it seems like a book might've functioned better, particularly since both women seem to agree that pd's creations are artistically compelling. I can't say I'm convinced, but it'd make a hell of a coffee-table conversation starter.
Graphic Sexual Horror displays its title boldly across the front of the case in giant letters above the startling image of a woman with her head inside a plastic bag, in the hopes of grabbing your attention across the room. Upon closer inspection, the overall production value of the packaging is a bit "do-it-yourself", but I guess it's fine. Inside the case is a nice booklet with a comic on it, but my disc was a screener with boring old Arial on it and no image.
The Video and Audio
Synapse offers up an acceptable 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer that features a few predictable digital issues, like moire patterns and a few jagged edges, but nothing that should really affect the viewer's experience of watching the documentary.
Dolby Digital 2.0 is equally passable/unremarkable. All of the audio recorded for the doc itself was clear and clean. I just wish some kind of subtitles were provided, as the actual InSex footage featured in the documentary can get quite...scream-y.
Four deleted scenes (2:01, 3:31, 0:26 and 1:59) aren't particularly remarkable, nor are a series of clips called "More From the Models" (0:55, 0:27, 1:20, 0:21, 0:40, 0:53, and 5:49), which are also basically deleted scenes, only shorter (with the exception of the last "Models" clip, which is a montage). None of these added soundbytes provide significant insight the documentary doesn't, unless you were dying to know which of the models was lactating. At least they're short, so the few comments that are interesting (if not revolutionary) will be easy to access, but the lack of "Play All" buttons is, as always, slightly disappointing.
A Barbara Bell Interview (8:31) features one of the co-directors talking about the genesis of the documentary, and a few of her thoughts on the whole InSex experience. I wish the film itself matched her enthusiasm for the subject, which she is visibly excited about. It's also sort of telling that is probably the most interesting thing on the disc. Too bad Bell and Lorentzon didn't record a full-length audio commentary.
The film's original theatrical trailer is also included.
I wavered, but ultimately I think this is a skip it; unless the viewer is already familiar with InSex or pd, I imagine the subject matter might be a hard-sell or repulse people, and even those people should know they're getting more of an informational documentary than a commentary on InSex, its creator, or its members.
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