Color, 2011, 86m.
Directed by Raffaele Picchio
Starring Valentina D'Andrea, Andrea De Bruyn, Désirée Giorgetti, Francesco Malcom, Giuseppe Nitti
Synapse (Blu-ray & DVD) (US R0 HD/NTSC), Elephant (Blu-ray & DVD) (France RB/R2 HD/PAL), Sunfilm (Blu-ray & DVD) (Germany RB/R2 HD/PAL), Sinister (DVD) (Italy R2 PAL) / WS (1.85:1) (16:9)
If you enjoy watching people stumble around in the dark crying and screaming, then Morituris: Legions of the Dead is the film for you. This 2011 Italian gore film featuring practical effects by Sergio Stivaletti (the first two Demons films, Phenomena, Opera, etc.) is touted as an homage to vintage Italian horror cinema, though it mostly recalls the camping movie-in-a-movie sneak preview from Demons crossed with a bit of the Blind Dead films and I Spit on Your Grave.
After a puzzling and disturbing 8mm opening in which a family picnic goes perversely awry (and some odd animated credits), our story beings with a pair of Romanian tourists getting picked up by a trio of Italian guys who offer to take them to an underground rave out in the countryside. They agree to go along but end up in a field with no one else in sight, so they decide to camp out for a while and babble about each other's personal histories and philosophies. One of their other buddies offers to check up on them later in the morning while he abuses a prostitute, and soon it turns into an overnight assault of grueling sexual abuse and depravity finally interrupted by the arrival of some undead Roman gladiators who like to tear off people's heads.
In theory, that synopsis sounds like an exploitation dream come true. In practice, it's a lot more problematic as (a) director Raffaele Picchio never quite seems to know where to put the camera or how to light a shot, (b) none of the characters are interesting enough to invest in, and (c) the endless sexual violence doesn't seem to serve much purpose apart from cheap shock value complete with a blatant copy of the most notorious scene ever written by Bret Easton Ellis. Thankfully the last third unleashes some entertaining zombie mayhem (albeit so dark all the blood looks like black paint), with a lot of medieval weaponry unleashed on the cast and a nasty little blasphemous kicker of an ending that's easily the most interesting thing about the film.
Causing a bit of a stir in its festival screenings in 2011, this film was purported to be banned in Italy but was released there on DVD in 2014; however, it proved to be more popular in France and especially Germany, where it's been issued in several different Blu-ray and DVD editions. The Synapse release as separate Blu-rays and DVDs is the first one with English subtitles, and the DTS-HD MA 5.1 and 2.0 Italian audio tracks sound fine given the film is mostly sinister rumbling and screaming with some amusing goth metal thrown in at the end. The sole extra is the theatrical trailer, and the HD transfer looks quite good considering the fact that about 85% of the running time unfolds in almost complete darkness. The end credits tout the fact this was shot with RED cameras, so it has that glossy, digital sheen you'd expect that lends itself well to a Blu-ray release.