I don’t find most horror movies scary; I’m not that worried about a ghost coming out of my TV or something. I do react well to jump scares, though – there’s a jump scare in 8 Below that had me almost piss my pants. But when it comes to “scary” movies… well, United 93 is my pick for the scariest movie of 2006.
So that means I tend to gravitate towards films that are unsettling or upsetting, movies that really creep me out. There are few films that fit this bill better than Singapore Sling, a hallucinogenic, and sick riff on Otto Preminger’s Laura. A private investigator has been searching for his lost love, Laura, and the trail leads him to a mother and daughter pair who are like the mingling of Maysles’ documentary Grey Gardens and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. The pair are incestuous – in a flashback we see the daughter losing her virginity to her father… dressed in a mummy outfit – and sadistic killers. We first meet them as they are burying the corpse of their chauffeur, reminiscing about the days when they could murder the help with impunity. And among the help they once had was a woman named Laura.
The PI is injured and comes into the care of these two perverts and sickos, setting the stage for two hours of skin crawling, stomach turning creepiness. Singapore Sling isn’t technically a horror movie, but it’s completely nightmarish – not just in its atrocities, but also in its dream logic and structure. The movie features an appetite destroying dinner sequence, people vomiting on each other, golden showers, cannibalism, and the rape of the PI, who is forced to buck under his tormentor through the application of electric shock.
All of this would be just gross if it happened in your standard schlocky movie, but Singapore Sling is something more. It’s shot in absolutely gorgeous black and white, giving each demeaning and disgusting scene a sheen of art that makes the whole film impossible to dismiss. The performances of the mother and daughter pair are fantastic, especially Meredyth Herold as the daughter. The role requires her to go fully in, completely inhabiting a bizarre and insane character, and Herold is utterly believable in every single moment – even when she’s breaking the fourth wall or chewing scenery like it’s bubble gum. It’s one of the bravest performances I have ever seen, made all the more impressive by the fact that it’s one of only two movies she has ever been in; the other is also by Singapore Sling director Nikos Nikolaidis.
Singapore Sling is a Greek film (most of the dialogue is in English, though), and it’s been incredibly hard to find in the USA. Until this year I had only heard about this strange and discomforting movie – now I have it in my collection thanks to the terrific work of the folks at Synapse Films. Click here to buy the movie from Amazon – you probably couldn’t find this one at your local store, and even if they did have it, I couldn’t tell you in what section it would be stocked. But for anyone interested in film that transgresses, that pushes the envelope of what you can sit through, Singapore Sling is a must-see.