I have previously expressed how much I appreciate the wide variety of films I've been exposed to while writing for DVD Talk. Some of my favorite reviews to write have been for films I was not expecting to be great. I have come to realize that art means different things to different people. What entertains or repulses a viewer is subjective, and films impact people based on their backgrounds and moods. It was with great interest that I popped in the Blu-ray for Pig/1334 from Cult Epics. I knew nothing about either film before beginning this review, but recognized from the snake, skull and swastika-adorned cover that I was in for something intense. Both short films are by Dutch director Nico B., who founded Cult Epics, and Pig is a collaboration with late musician Rozz Williams. Both are confounding, horrific and experimental, and intentionally provoke strong reactions from the audience.
Shot in 1998 for less than $5,000, Pig is a hallucinogenic, disturbing vision of a serial killer and his victim. Williams, of the band Christian Death, co-directs with Nico B., and Pig is filled with graphic images, religious symbolism and torture. Over 23 minutes, the directors assault the viewer with disturbing glimpses of a faceless killer toying with an unnamed male victim. This is intense, graphic stuff that makes the snuff films in Sinister seem tame. There are images of the killer driving in the desert, and two figures wrapped in gauze communicate by gesture in a scene that triggered in my head the cover artwork of Nick Tosches' In the Hand of Dante. The meaning of Pig is open to interpretation, but American Gothic pioneer Williams apparently used the film to exorcise some of his internal demons. Sadly, Williams took his own life when Pig was in post production.
Shot a decade later, 1334 is a pseudo sequel to Pig that begins with a reenactment of Williams' suicide. A ghostly presence lingers in the death house after a young couple takes up residence there, and the pair is affected by the spirit and energy of the deceased man. 1334 is certainly less graphic than Pig, but is nonetheless startling in imagery and tone. Both films ruminate on the inevitability of death, accepting pain and deliverance, and each feels like a further expression of Williams' music. Neither has sustained dialogue, but haunting, droning scores by Williams set the chilly moods.
Pig/1334 is certainly not something that will appeal to most audiences. These are dark, confounding expressions of human emotions; art at its most pure. I think it's pretty cool that something like this exists and is available on Blu-ray. Making 1334 was apparently therapeutic for Nico B., and was a way for him to remember his fallen friend. Making films to strike nerves, dissect emotions and ponder human nature is a valuable practice. I may not have enjoyed everything I saw in Pig/1334, but I can appreciate the craft.
Both films are presented with 1.33:1/1080p/AVC-encoded transfers. This is certainly not typical Blu-ray material, especially Pig, and each film is rough, gritty, warped and twisted. The source material - 8mm and 16mm photography - limits the detail and clarity. Both look intentionally decayed, but I suspected the Blu-ray presentation is exactly what Nico B. had in mind for these black and white shockers.
Each film receives a 5.1 Dolby Digital track and a 2.0 stereo mix. The droning scores fill the room with dread, and any effects are as clear as intended. The small bit of Russian dialogue is not subtitled.
PACKAGING AND EXTRAS:
This Cult Epics release includes both a Blu-ray and a DVD copy of Pig/1334. The slipcover features art from the killer's book in Pig, "Why God Permits Evil," and the main artwork pulls images from the films. Unfortunately, no extra features are included outside of an interesting printed booklet, which contains production notes on each film. An out-of-print DVD release of Pig apparently included more supplemental material.
Interpret as you will the chilling images of Pig/1334. Dutch filmmaker Nico B. directs both, and the former is a collaboration with late rocker Rozz Williams. Art is the expression of its creator, and appreciation is subjective. These are disturbing, experimental shorts that dissect death, pain and human emotion, and fall far from the mainstream. The star ratings are perfunctory here; the Blu-ray presents these underground films as intended. Rent It.
William lives in Raleigh, North Carolina, and looks forward to a Friday-afternoon matinee.