Blu-Ray Review, Morituris: Legions Of The Dead

Published on October 15th, 2015 in: Blu-Ray, DVD/Blu-Ray Reviews, Horror, Movie Reviews, Movies, Reviews |

By Jeffery X Martin

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TRIGGER WARNING: The following review contains descriptions of sexual abuse, foul language, and general post-film grumpiness.

Morituris: Legions Of The Dead is the kind of movie I would have moved heaven and earth to see when I was 12, full of bad hormones and suburban rage, wanting to see nothing more than naked women and wanton destruction. The video clerks wouldn’t have rented it to me, though, and I would have stared at the cover with intense longing for years. Then, when I finally got to see it, I would have been disappointed and sad. Sure, The Eighties Italian exploitation vibe is strong and intentional with this movie, and it is a visceral and bloody film to watch. These are normally things I gravitate towards.

There’s just one overarching problem.

This movie sucks.

Let’s start with the obvious. This is a story totally constructed upon rape. Now, there’s a place for that in movies. From The Virgin Spring to The Accused, you can build a story out of that violent act and make it something edifying and worth watching, if for no other reason than to see the victim take gruesome revenge on her attacker(s). There’s a reason we’re still talking about I Spit on Your Grave decades after its release. There’s a kind of empowerment living in the rape and revenge subgenre that resonates with people.

Morituris doesn’t offer that kind of release. Even the infamous tree rape in The Evil Dead led to something that furthered the story. Rape without revenge, within a horror movie sensibility, is just grim. In a genre where beheadings and disembowelments are cool, rape stands out like a sore thumb if it has no resolution, no point. And you’ll find nothing like that in Morituris.

What the movie does offer are five undead gladiators, who rise from their ancient graves as soon as blood as spilled on their burial ground. They are distinguishable only by their different suits of armor. It is reasonable to expect that the gladiators would aid the women who are being attacked. One expects a bit of nobility from such mythologized figures. That would be an incorrect assumption. There’s not a female in this movie that isn’t there for the sole reason of being assaulted in one way or another, even by dead guys.

Even for the sake of a review, one can’t get past the point that this film is about cruelty, and not in a clever sort of Funny Games way. The male characters are despicable. The gladiators are brutal. The women are punching bags. There is no sense of humor present, not even morbid humor. Morituris is an unpleasant film in every respect.

Then again, maybe you’re 12 and you don’t know what breasts look like. Hooray for you, because one of the characters spends literally half the movie completely naked, running through the dirt and the muck, getting raped, and having her hand spiked into a rock by a grotesque zombie Russell Crowe. You can gawk over the scene where the guy puts on a gas mask, inserts a hollow plastic tube into a screaming woman’s vagina, then drops a mouse into the tube. This is after he burns her with eye-droppers full of acid.

Are we having fun yet?

The final insult comes in the ending credits. The filmmakers have a dedication for the film which reads, “In Memory of Humanity.” So now it’s political. This whole movie is just a shocking example of man’s inhumanity to man. That’s a cheap move, and it’s cowardly. If you’re going to make a horror show with a bit of the old ultra-violence, do the audience a favor and own that shit. Don’t reach into the past and make inferred comparisons to Pasolini or Haneke. If you’re going to make The Last Piazza on the Left, then make it and stand behind it.

This is not a movie sagging under the weight of history.

It buckles because there’s only the semblance of a story. The legion of zombie gladiators looks like a proof-of-concept clip. The acting, not that much was required, is abysmal. The penultimate sin is that a movie about Roman pit-fighters rising from the dead should not be boring. Morituris is a tension-free pastiche of pseudo-snuff scenes that leaves the viewer unfulfilled and vaguely wishing they had masturbated over an economics textbook into an unclean tube sock instead of wasting their time with this crap. And that final layer of pretentiousness, laid on the audience by the filmmakers, finally makes the whole thing collapse into a stinking pile of meanness. That ending card should have read, “In Memory of Better Films.”

If you have the sexual maturity of a twelve-year-old and all you’re after is titties ‘n’ blood, with an extra heavy serving of nihilism, Morituris is your A-ticket. Everyone else, especially if you have a conscience or any sort of moral compass, should steer clear.

Morituris: Legions Of The Dead was released by Synapse Films on September 8.

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