The last time we ran a story on the updated version of Faces of Death was in May of 2005, before Don Murphy – who is producing the new film – and I made up at the San Diego Comic Con that summer. Now there’s new movement on the project, with Rogue Pictures on board and JT Petty directing. Petty’s mostly worked on video game scripts in the last few years, but does have some directing credits under his belt, including the horror film Soft for Digging.
When Aint It Cool broke the news last year, Murphy told them that his Faces wouldn’t be a pseudo-documentary* but rather a narrative film, with a bunch of teens investigating strange deaths in their town and discovering they’re connected to the original cult Faces of Death films. I assume that’s still the angle, but I have some pleas to make to Mr. Don Murphy, who I am pretty sure will be reading this:
First of all, resist the urge to make this in line with Final Destination. I actually love those films, but they have a level of black humor that makes them unique, and I think trying to replicate that formula is a losing proposition.
But most importantly – make this film as gory as possible. And I don’t mean go in shooting for a hard R. Go in shooting for a hard NC-17. Make the people at the MPAA sick to their stomachs. Find the line of decency and jump well beyond it – that was the allure of the original films in the first place. We all know Rogue is going to want to release an R-rated cut of the film, and you should definitely cut it down for theatrical release. But with a truly hardcore cut of Faces of Death waiting, the eventual and inevitable Unrated DVD version will actually be something special, not just the usual “two more seconds of blood spray and the boobs of a body double” nonsense we see today.
Faces of Death caused plenty of controversy, and so should this new version. People should be picketing outside movie theaters showing it. The movie should be the subject of much clucking about cinematic violence on Fox News. It should be the kind of movie that upsets boring old film critics so much that they consider quitting the business, feeling that the whole industry has run off the rails.
This weekend I was featured in a story in the New York Newsday about the level of violence in modern horror films. I was quoted in ways that seem less than accurate (did I really say it was sad that 14 year old kids were seeing hardcore violence in film? Maybe I did, but it doesn’t sound like me, since I was once a 14 year old kid who would seek out the most explicitly violent and socially unredeeming films I could find), but I think that Faces of Death has a chance to make a liar out of me in one of the quotes they seem to have gotten right:
But is the new violence really new? After all, certain movies of the ’70s were pretty revolting.
"If you’re looking at the mainstream stuff, the answer is definitely yes," said Faraci. "In terms of the whole genre, no, not even close. The mainstream stuff is more gruesome than it’s been in a long, long time – if ever."
The ’70s and ’80s were the high-water mark for serious gore, Faraci said. "Besides ‘Last House on the Left,’ there was [1985’s] ‘Re-Animator,’ in which a decapitated head rapes a girl – something you’re never going to see in a mainstream movie. Someone else is killed by exploding intestines. That’s never going to happen at the mall either. But the mainstream films of today are harkening back to those exploitation films of the ’70s, when things got really heavy, and they’re much more into torture, an element which you never saw in mainstream horror."
Don, make Faces of Death a movie that will rival the sheer nastiness of the best horror films of the 70s and 80s. Make Hostel look like a kid’s film. In a lot of ways the original Faces of Death films set the bar very high – you guys have the chance to set it even higher.
*The Faces of Death films claimed to be all real footage of people and animals being killed, but it later turned out most of it was fake. There is some real stuff mixed in there, some news footage type things, but the vast majority of the famous scenes – like people eating the brains of a live monkey – are totally fictional. It seems to me that this wasn’t because the folks behind the film didn’t want to show real atrocities but because they were too cheap or lazy to hunt down real footage. Faces of Death should have been the pinnacle of the Mondo genre of grind house films, but it instead turned out to be the pinnacle of the hoax film. Which might actually be cooler.
Of course the best way to realize how much things have changed is to look at the internet – getting footage and photos of real horrors is pretty easy. I used to have a gif of a deaf women getting nailed by a train as my avatar on another message board. What’s funny is that this stuff feels creepier now – back in the day you had to find Faces of Death, or the Budd Dwyer suicide tape. Now it’s so easy to come across and so ubiquitous that it makes you realize how desensitized society is.