Review Date: May 18, 2008
Released by: Anchor Bay
Release date: 10/10/2006
Region 1, NTSC
Widescreen 1.85:1 | 16x9: Yes
They say in America there are never any good roles for women. Starlets constantly bemoan this fact every Oscar night, celebrating that one great award-winning role that helped vindicate women’s lib. If horror wasn’t such a subjugated genre perhaps those same actresses would realize the juicy femininity that comes with being the Final Girl. Guys save the day in American action films, but it’s the women who triumph red white and blue in American horror.
The problem with America’s Final Girl template however, is that the woman becomes the focus not by choice, but by mere process of elimination. She can only come to the forefront once all the men have been killed. Look across the world though, and you’ll see that women in horror remain at the forefront, doing more than just battle the killer – they explore their own psyche. In Italy there’s Suspiria
and The Strange Vice of Mrs. Wardh
, in France there’s Eyes Without a Face
, in Japan there’s Ugetsu
and even north of the border in Canada there’s Graveyard Shift
and American Nightmare
. Of course America has some plumb feminist horror films like Rosemary’s Baby
, but even that can be attributed to the foreign influence of Roman Polanski. The fifties weepy? Thank you Douglas Sirk, or as his homeland knows him, Hans Detlef Sierck.
No, the great female roles come from outside the land of the free, and this is a tradition that has hailed throughout the years. Even the recent slasher inspired Haute Tension
revels in its femininity, showing just how differently the two cultures interpret the meaning of Final Girl. So with that in mind, I was recommended to Baby Blood
, Alain Robak’s ode to Rosemary’s Baby
with a pinch of French mauvais. I was promised a deconstruction of female angst in an unjust patriarchal society. An IMDb search for Alain Robak’s credits reveals a pseudonym of Roger Placenta. That has to be a good sign.
Hinting from the opening frames that we’re in a world where the woman is held prisoner by male dominance and contempt, the first shot begins first person in a cage. There we take the eyes of a creature that’s been divinely birthed from the stars. A gargoyle from the days when earth was a violent clash between water and fire. Now that clash seems to be between the sexes, as the gargoyle makes its way to a circus run by the wife-beating Lohman (Christian Sinniger) and the beaten-wife Yanka (Emmanuelle Escourrou). Yanka runs the lion taming portion of the show, and since the gargoyle is manifested inside the newly shipped leopard, she’ll have a chance to get very acquainted with evil.
Too acquainted. The beast bursts all Nostromo style from the leopard, only to slither its way to Yanka’s vag as if it were refugee lipstick from Night of the Demons 2
. It crawls inside, and Yanka, sensing a new form of female empowerment (afterall, Freud did say that a child is the closest a woman comes to having a phallus), chooses to run away. She shacks up in a dingy apartment, where she begins a dialogue with her unborn child. The demon tells her his need for blood, and while she initially tries to resist, she realizes she’s nothing but a slave to his craving. She kills Lohman when he tracks her down, feasting on the liquid for and the recipient of the title.
The baby starts to grow strong, and Yanka starts to get comfortable in her routine of seducing horny men to feed her independence. While before she’d kill out of life-serving duty to her captive child, she now confesses to do it out of an ill-seeded love. The baby gives her pleasure, and unable to get drunk and hit her or lustily exploit her, it’s a safe pleasure. Every door must be opened, and every baby born, and it soon comes time for the demon to make his grand sortire. Out he goes towards his seaside destination, but it seems men are an infant
itly worse adversary than water, fire or even the stars above.
is pretty slow and repetitive in its display of deplorable men and their quick comeuppance, and it cheats the premise by not birthing the baby until moments before the end credits. Yet, like many of the aforementioned takes on women’s issues in horror across the world, it has a surreal quality. Its values seem totally awry with North America’s conception of sexuality, maternity and empowerment. It’s fitting that the moments that were cut in the American prints (obvious here by their forced subtitles on this DVD) are not entirely gore-related, but more about the sexuality of the male characters. Gone in American prints was a monologue by a trucker on his sore asshole and his depraved homosexuality, seen here as male dominance at a precipice – two beasts fighting for dominance over the self. There are several more like that, alien (and at times offensive) methodologies of looking at sex and the sexes that is generally clouded over in political correctness this side of the Atlantic.
As foreign to us are the politics, so too is the leading lady, Emmanuelle Escourrou, at once a fitting figure in the blood sucking pantheon. She’s got the voluptuous, foreign beauty of Vampyres
’ Marianne Morris and the gapped, feral teeth of Max Schreck. Similarly, her performance straddles between seductive temptress and sympathetic slave, sad and alone. Even when she was with men at her own will, it was as if she was a prisoner to patriarchal dominance, with momentary, regrettable bursts of sexuality. While she may be physically alone, walled up with her unborn child, at least in the sadness there’s a slight sense of camaraderie and empowerment, like she’s actually helping someone, however ill-intentioned.
For it’s Yanka who repeats throughout the film how she’s never done anything in her life whenever questioned about her past. The story would dictate she’s saying so to avoid being pegged as a murderer, but look deeper and it’s really her lack of confidence manifest. She’s seen herself a slave her whole life, unable to do anything outside of oppression. Yet it’s at the end that she finally does do something. She birth’s the future apocalypse. Not the most vaunted of achievements, but the climax makes clear there’s worse. The worse being the brutish, take-all sexual dominance of man. As the film comes to a horrific close, the horror comes not from the killer baby, but the fact that what he’s doing may be for the best.
Anchor Bay presents the film in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen, and while its been cleaned and looks clear, there’s a little too much edge enhancement. Many of the sequences, especially early on in the jungle, seem sharper than they should, giving edges a slight sort of shimmer. Still, that doesn’t mean that grain isn’t apparent, since there’s a light coat that stills stands out during the higher ISO night sequences. Blemishes are almost non-existent though, which is a nice plus. The coloring is average, with nothing really standing out for good or bad. Thankfully the standard and uncut sequences seamlessly intercut, and with a cleaned up transfer like this, fans should be happy if not ecstatic.
Anchor Bay does the good duty of presenting the film in both its native French and dubbed English languages. Both work, although it’s interesting to note that the French track has a little more dialogue than the English. It’s most noticeable at the end, when in the English track an ambulance ride is ominously silent, while in the French a couple of paramedics luridly banter off-screen. Both serve the story of female subjugation in different ways, one making her birth (and the loss of her empowering child) seem frightening, while the other comically illustrating the vile, one track mind of man. Either way, both are presented clear and without any hiss, crackles or pops (Rise Krispies!). Directionality between the two channels is absent, but whatever.
A short atmospheric trailer that reveals a little more than it should is the only extra.
isn’t a perfect film, but is still satisfying cinema about the subjugation of the sexes sans sleaze. Instead it approaches the woman’s pregnancy as both ambivalent, brutal and at times even darkly liberating. The fact that it does so with a shitload of blood shouldn’t deter gore fans either. The image is a little too sharp, but still looks mightily cleaned up, and both the English and French tracks have their plusses. The lack of extras is a shame, especially since the belated sequel, Lady Blood
(written and starring Escourrou) is forthcoming. Those raised on American femininity in horror should push hard through Hastings and witness the birth of politically incorrect French feminist rhetoric with Baby Blood
. Oh mamma!
Movie - B
Image Quality - B+
Sound - B+
Supplements - D
- Running time - 1 hour 24 minutes
- Rated R
- 1 Disc
- Chapter Stops
- English stereo
- French stereo
- English subtitles