1. Why is this the first I've heard about it?
2. Why was it not present at the London Film Festival, yet 50/50 was?
3. Why is there no UK release date?
4. Is Abel Ferrera one of the most underrated directors ever?
5. Is it me, or has Willem Defoe not aged in the past twenty years?
6. Why is Paz De La Heurta in it?
7. Why is Paz De La Heurta in anything?
8. Why did I just take two cheap digs at Paz De La Heurta when I'm at worst ambivalent about her?
9. Am I subconsciously seeking approval from the Boardwalk Empire fans who hate her? Or am I just a misogynist dick?
10. Will Paz De La Heurta take her clothes off at some point as she does in everything I've ever seen her in?
11. Just how do you spell Paz De La Heurta anyway?
As a quick aside, this IMDB review of 4.44 LAST DAY ON EARTH has a fantastic final line:
Fans of both doomsday scenario movies and movies that show close-ups of Willem Dafoe's pubic region should walk away eerily pleased from this one.
Picturing that incredibly esoteric Venn diagram is funny in itself, but pushed over the edge by the idea of someone beeing 'eerily' pleased by Willem Dafoe's pubic region.
"When the screen was filled with Dafoe's enormous ungroomed pubis I felt like someone had just walked over my grave...BUT IN A GOOD WAY."
I'll go out on a limb here: Abel Ferrera's Ms 45 is the most enjoyable rape-revenge film ever made.
I understand that as compliments go it's up there in the redundancy stakes with 'loudest silent film' or 'funniest holocaust drama', but I'll be damned if it isn't true.
Screened by the wonderful and vital Cigarette Burns collective at the Rio cinema in Dalston last Saturday, Ms. 45 was their best screening yet and a fantastic way to spend a Saturday evening.
Not only was it an inspired pick, but a brave one, because as Josh Cigarette Burns mentioned to me after the film, it's one thing to watch a rape scene in the confines of your home where you can properly contextualise it, and it's another to screen it for a pleasantly liberal yet ultimately judgemental East London audience who just want to see a fun midnight movie and could do without the lengthy scenes of graphic sexual violence thank you very much.
He needn't have worried, but it did strike me what a risky game exploitation films play with depicting rape: make it too sexualised or violent and you're trivialising or possibly even glorifying sexual assault, which is clearly unacceptable to just about everyone make it too ascetic and punishing, though, and you're moving away from the amoral thrills that personify the best exploitation and into something approaching cinematic penance (Oh hai Irreversible).
You need to be a really good film-maker to achieve the right balance, and Abel Ferrera is so good that he starts Ms. 45 with not one but two rape sequences, both uncomfortable and horrifying, yet essential in setting up the roaring rampage of revenge that follows.
When the titular Ms 45 is subjected to her first assault, it's too quick and shocking for her to fight back or even really register what is happening -during the second, lengthier attack however, she finds it within herself to fight back and murder her assailant right at the moment off climax. As a result, the previously milquetoast mute is newly empowered by this seizing of power from the aggressively primal men she is persued by persistently , but conversely the Pavlovian connection between sex and murder established by her first kill soon drives her completely insane, most memorably demonstrated in a Repulsion-echoing scene where she attempts to look at her naked body in the mirror, but hallucinates a masked attacker's arm grabbing her before she can fully disrobe. She quickly transforms from feminist avenger targeting violent chauvinists, into a psychopathic angel of death out to murder anyone with the balls to have, erm, balls.
There's a level of characterization and psychological complexity to Ms 45 that is unusual and some might argue unnecessary in a nasty little genre piece like this, but it's also what raises it to a level of quality and (II would imagine) rewatchability that distances it from other rape-revenge flicks and instead invites comparisons with psycho thrillers like Repulsion and recently, Black Swan; two films that also explore the link between repressed sexuality and insanity to chilling effect.
Fans of films like I Spit On Your Grave and Last House on the Left would argue that when placed in an allegorical or feminist context that they have an intellectual rigour that demands they be taken equally seriously, but I’m not as convinced. I found the psychodrama of Ms 45 to be a much more satisfying experience, and ultimately it’s a film with something I don’t think anyone would argue you could describe those other rape-revenge films as: fun. Just because the filmmaking and storytelling is a little bit more sophisticated than your standard grindhouse fare it's not to say that it loses any of its pulpy enjoyment.
There's a wonderful stream of jet black humour running through it - every scene with the dog is gold, and there is a neat pre-credits coda that acts as a funny punchline after the intensity of the end sequence. Zoe Lund looks fabulously iconic throughout, and the setpieces are uniformly fantastic - highlights include a confrontation with some Warriors-esque thugs in Central Park, and of course the unforgettable final showdown at a packed Halloween party.
Much like The Warriors, Ms 45 uses the amoral backdrop of 80s New York to underscore the dangerous, almost Western like atmosphere - every dingy alley and corner is a potential hiding place for a thug, murderer, or rapist, and everybody else is either a deadbeat, a yuppie or a potential victim.
80s New York may have been a violent, crime-ridden hellhole, but at least it provided the inspiration for some great cinema: Ms 45 sits alongside The Warriors, Street Trash, After Hours, Escape from New York, and the Death Wish and Bronx Warriors films as movies that take the seedy atmosphere of the period and heighten it to a level of apocalyptic scuzz that borders on the fantastical.
Overall it's just a great, great film, and thanks again go to Cigarette Burns for turning me on to a new favourite that is inexplicably and tragically not currently available on DVD in the UK. I see that the whole film is on YouTube if you look for it, however, and it really is worth tracking down if you're a fan of exploitation, psychological thrillers, or just awesome cinema in general. Just don't expect the infamous 'Halloween party sax riff' to leave your head for the next hundred years or so.