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Hyde's Secret Nightmare
Dedicated to, and mentioned as the Italian heir to Joe D'Amato, Domiziano Cristopharo's Hyde's Secret Nightmare (2011) flirts with danger. Bragging about any lineage to the Crap King of Erotic Horror, Joe D'Amato, is like bragging about being Hitler's son. That's the quickest Godwin's Law has ever been activated, and in a way it's not justified, as by-and-large Cristopharo has crafted an Erotic Horror movie worlds better than anything D'Amato ever squirted out. Yet at 2-hours long, and including a baffling proselytizing tone, Cristopharo's created a movie seemingly ashamed of what it is, and ultimately less satisfying than it could be.
Henry Chagall (Claudio Zanelli) suffers impotence (and possibly Gender Dysphoria). Luckily, he's a mad scientist with a hunchbacked assistant, Hans (Giovanni la Gorga) who can help him test his experimental cure serum on corpses. Yes, give the stiff a stiffy and Chagall knows he's on the right track.
Chagall runs into all sorts of trouble on his journey to sexual satisfaction, however, not the least of which comes from necrophilliac corpse procuring pal Abdul, (Andrea Autullo) a character that masterfully rides the line between utterly abhorrent and realistically sympathetic. (This most expertly expressed, counter-intuitively in a dream sequence, as Abdul uses a rotting corpse's hand to do a 'job' that 'hands' sometimes do.) Assistant Hans also butts heads with Chagall, objecting to his treatment and Chagall's tactics. Meantime, as Chagall negotiates the world of sleazy Italian sex-clubs (I think) he seems to keep switching personalities, (among other things). Remember, this is at least loosely aligned with the Jekyll and Hyde story, and such 'transformations,' along with numerous dream sequences, keep waters so muddy, you'll have to hold on like you were riding a zip-line to have the barest chance of keeping up with proceedings. Pro-tip? Don't worry about it.
The thing is, like Jekyll and Hyde, there are two entirely different things going on here. And while one has your best (salacious) interests at heart, the other keeps messing things up. The former represents Erotic Horror, a concept that will find 99.9% of viewers leaving the room, and something that Joe D'Amato almost destroyed completely with lugubrious genre efforts that simply crammed alternately-filmed hardcore sequences into crap horror movies, alienating everyone but those only reading about the idea and hoping to bolster their credibility as folks who had 'seen it all'. On this count, Cristopharo gets it right, seamlessly blending a very small handful of triple-X sequences into a movie that hinges on horrific elements. Not only do these scenes bring you to attention, they also actually push the plot forward. It's Cristopharo's masterstroke, if you will, since that's something that virtually never happens in movies that try to blend un-simulated sex with, you know, an actual plot. On this front, the director challenges viewers even further with a hypnotic sequence incorporating actual scenes of genital piercing. It's tough to watch, but, damnit, if you're bellying up to an Erotic Horror movie, you should be challenged in such ways.
Sadly, Cristopharo either has too much on his mind, or zero confidence in his otherwise skillfully assayed sleaze-show, as he keeps interrupting it to preach. For each scene with our players getting authentically frisky, there's a break for them to, in character, breach the fourth wall, talking directly to the camera, basically explaining what healthy sexuality is, regardless of your position in life. For instance, after a truly inspired hand puppet sequence (you read that right) an elderly couple talks frankly and earnestly about keeping up a healthy sex-life after parts start sagging. As a human interested in sexual health, (both physically, and emotionally) I'm happy for the help. As someone willfully watching an Erotic Horror movie, I'm saddened and insulted. It's good information, but it utterly derails the material, and seems to say that Cristopharo believes his otherwise very nicely, in fact expertly constructed movie, has no value if not infused with a PSA every 15 minutes. Buy the ticket, take the ride, folks. Don't apologize for it, trying to give it 'educational value.' Hyde's Secret Nightmare features a few scenes of un-simulated sex, some juicy parts, and a healthy handful of erections, but it's not a 'porno' movie. It is in fact one of the only assured blendings of real sex and horror I've seen put on film. It's too bad Cristopharo had so little confidence in his skills that he felt he needed to justify his movie with several 'Sexuality 101' lectures. He even chooses to take on pharmaceutical companies! Happy for the information, Domiziano! Next time, slip it to us with a little bit more stealth, at least. Recommended for you who have hungered for an Erotic Horror movie that's even half-a-tick better than the swill D'Amato directed, but watch out for the lectures. (Of course the vast majority of you will wonder why in hell you would ever watch something like this. Enjoy your normal lives, you, Skip It, and know that we freaks kind-of envy you.)
One 7 Movies brings us this challenging Italian movie in a 1.85:1 ratio transfer that sits neatly in the middle of the 'average DVD presentation' category. It's a dark movie for the most part, with black levels that contain a little crush, but are relatively deep. Details are sharp enough, but tend to fade in the background, and aren't super-crisp in the midground. In other words, they are OK for DVD, but don't rise above.
Digital Stereo Audio in Italian, with English Subtitles, is also just fine. Dialog is mixed adequately, and sound-design is relatively active. Of note is the mix between dialog, etc. and the score, which is done well. That score, you may wonder about, is several notches above the 'boom-chikka-wow-wow' scores of garden-variety skin-flicks, sounding stylish and compelling instead, even as it revisits the same motifs with each adult sequence in the movie.
A fair number of extras are included, starting with the Trailer and an auto-navigated Photo Gallery. 17 minutes of Deleted Scenes include a little more 'action' and other semi-explicatory scenes, and are preceded by text explanations of why they were removed. Confessions find the director and actress Roberta Gemma talking about their experiences with the movie for about seven minutes, while Bloopers (yes, Bloopers) also run seven minutes, but are slightly less amusing for requiring subtitles for English audiences. A DVD-Rom Comic in English is quite stylish and forlorn, and will have to be sought out on your computer, as this extra does not appear as a clickable extra on the menu screen. The PDF takes a while to load.
Domiziano Cristopharo's audacious Erotic Horror, Hyde's Secret Nightmare scores big points for seamlessly combining its erotica with the sometimes hammy horror story of a mad doctor trying to cure his impotence by experimenting on corpses. (Don't even bother trying to compare it to the 'works' of Joe D'Amato, the creators do themselves a disservice hitching their wagon to the dearly departed hack. Their movie is much better than any of his.) Cristopharo also does himself a disservice by stopping the movie cold every so often to allow his characters to address viewers directly, outlining a philosophy of mental and sexual health that, while well-intentioned, betrays a lack of confidence with an otherwise assured Erotic Horror that speaks competently on its own. Those who would seek out this type of fare will find it cautiously Recommended while of course your garden variety movie fan should Skip It, unless you want your minds to be blown.