Wrath of the Crows (2013, Italy)
Wrath of the Crows is an Italian, English-language religious-fantasy-horror production, featuring one of those boutique prisons that looks like a real prison from the wide outdoor shots, but like the entire prison consists of just five movie set cells and only two staff once the action moves inside. And, to my surprise, a lot of people don’t seem to mind such things.
Four prisoners, two men and two women, are kept in the prison’s squalid cells - or open cages - with no furniture or toilets and straw on the floor. They are all awaiting judgement from an unseen Judge, who conveys his (or her) decision not at trial, but by the novel method of having handkerchiefs delivered to the cells: red for death, white for freedom, and the most feared, black, which condemns the prisoner to life imprisonment. The white handkerchief is not as popular as you’d expect, because it always entails some sacrifice (a finger, maybe, or both hands) before you are let go… and even then you have to be able to outrun the prison’s ‘dog soldier’ - a wild, drooling dog-man with a penchant for rape, who is mostly kept in place by a chain and an open mouth spider gag.
We discover, in time, that all four have committed horrible murders; Liza (Tara Cardinal) has killed her babies, Debby (Debbie Rochon) used her knife throwing skills to dispatch her husband’s lover, Hugo (Brian Fortune) has killed a miracle-performing priest because goodness is out of place in a horrible world, and Larry (Domiziano Arcangeli) is your standard serial killer of young women.
Into this group comes a fifth prisoner, Princess (Tiffany Shepis), whose crimes are unknown but she is dressed a little… unusually… in a black leather bodice, hot pants to match, and a stunning cloak of crows’ feathers. The men lust after her. Debby suspects there is something not quite right about her, trusts her instincts, and immediately resolves to hate her.
Princess, it turns out, has some special powers, like being able to open locks through mind power, and reapplying lipstick and makeup to look glamorous again after taking a knife in the neck and having no access to lipstick or makeup.
There are some prison movies where I marvel at the lack of visible injuries suffered by furious combatants. This is not one of them. Everyone is drenched or splattered in blood at some time. Teeth are forcibly removed, eyeballs are scooped out with a spoon (and then eaten), entrails are devoured, a face is bitten off… and much more. It is not for the squeamish. And it is almost certainly why critics (and audiences, I suspect) have been prepared to overlook the limitations of the set and forgive the plot’s ponderous themes of expiation and the incarceration of really bad people’s souls.
By next week, I will have forgotten all about guardianship of those lost souls. I might not have forgotten the splendid crows’ feather cloak, or the gore. I will definitely not have forgotten the sight of one of the guards, seated at a tiny desk in the dank dungeon in which the monstrous dog soldier, and the imbecilic prisoner who serves slop to the others, are both chained up. A desk? To do what, exactly? To write reports on the range of tortures administered? To assist in the supervision of the two men who are tethered and treated like wild beasts? To monitor their welfare? Memorable.
If only the prison had looked like a prison, with prison bustle and noise and busyness, I may have bought into the rest of it more.
Posted on May 27th, 2017 at 8:51 pm. Updated on May 27th, 2017 at 8:51 pm.
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