Altered Innocence (Blu-ray) (US R0 HD) / WS (1.78:1) (16:9)
Updating the concept of the LGBT-centric video labels that made a splash in the past on home video like Strand, Cinevista, and Wolfe, Altered Innocence has been turning heads for the past few years with stylish, genre-twisting offerings like The Wild Boys and the wild Euro-horror pastiche Knife + Heart. With the company jumping on board as a partner label with Vinegar Syndrome in 2021, they've issued a collection called Altered Innocence Vol. 1 on Blu-ray that highlights some of the short films and music videos of recent years; most have some kind of LGBT angle, but there's also a lot of cult movie appeal here with a couple even delivering some heavy doses of practical gore effects. It's a wild ride from start to finish with more than a few surprises along the way.
The festivities kick off with the Imperial Teen music video "Our Time” (2m52s) by Cam Archer, a simple piece about a young man shaking his mane of hair in the mirror and trying on a variety of outfits (including lipstick) before sneaking out of his window. In Anna Cazenave Cambet's "Gabber Lover" (13m34s) from 2016, presented in French with English subtitles, a strobe-flashing impromptu kiss between two girls out in the countryside is followed by a tentative walk home as one of them totes along a motorcycle. Afterwards, a long dark night of the soul awaits as one of them decides what to do next. "Doors Cut Down" (17m53s) by Antonio Hens is a Spanish short that kicks off with a time-lapse portrait of a men's room before launching into a day in the life of a high school boy and his own internal monologue as he cruises around a mall trying to figure out what he really wants before he ends up hitting on his English tutor and landing in legal trouble. Yann Gonzalez's music video "Les Vacances Continuent” by Perez, previously available on the Knife + Heart release and shown theatrically with that film for some engagements, shifts gears quite a bit with buckets of gore and stylish lighting as a female serial killer goes to town on several victims before getting her comeuppance (or does she?).
Caroline Poggi and Jonathan Vinel's "After School Knife Fight" (21m36s) from 2017, in French with subtitles, depicts four teenagers grappling with the fact that their band is falling apart over the summer when one of them has to move away, leading to several heart to heart talks and a final nocturnal performance in the woods. Shaun Hughes' Scottish short "Bunny" (18m42s) from 2018 is one of the best shorts on the disc, a strange and clever little oddity about a young man with gigantic rabbit ears who has to deal with social persecution and his attempts to deal with the death of his mother. (Make sure to switch on the English SDH subtitles for this one though as the accents are really thick!) "GUO4" (3m22s) by Peter Strickland (In Fabric, The Duke of Burgundy) for Guo is the nakedest of the titles here by far, using still shots and industrial music to show a locker room encounter suddenly turning into a wrestling match. "Terror, Sisters!" (27m49s) by Alexis Langlois from 2019 returns to France with a flamboyant, very Gaspar Noé-inspired look at four trans friends recovering from a bad day by talking about transphobia and deciding to finally do something about it by turning to local terrorism and musical numbers. The flashy electro-pop confection "Niemand" (6m18s), a music video for Kompromat by Bertrand Mandico, features a cameo by Elina Löwensohn, eyeball trauma, and a gory car crash that turns into a banquet for a taloned demon, so it's obviously a must. The Portuguese "Gambozinos" ("Wild Haggis") (19m48s) by João Nicolau from 2013 takes place at a summer camp where a little boy copes with his separation from his peers by finding refuge in nature -- including a furry clawed beast lurking in the woods. Finally, the Norwegian "Jakt" (Hunt) (28m41s) by Gjertrud Maria Bergaust from 2018 takes place in a village where homophobic bullies with serious personal issues make life miserable for a young boy who finds a protector in a local farmer, only for the community to misconstrue their friendship. It's not the happiest short in the set, but it's quite well made and at least opts for a melancholy path rather than an outright tragic one.
First released in a limited edition pink foil slipcover edition of 1,000 units, this collection looks great throughout given the recent vintage of all the films, whose aspect ratios range from 1.33:1 to 2.35:1 and come with either DTS-HD 2.0 or 5.1 audio depending on the source. The subtitles tend to vary depending on the film, with some going in a very stylized direction at times. Also included are trailers for Knife + Heart, The Wild Boys, A Dim Valley, and Equation to an Unknown; if you hunt around, there's also a bonus hidden short, 2016's "Notre Heritage," also by Caroline Poggi and Jonathan Vinel but much, much more explicit as it details a young man's attempt at romance while grappling with the fact that his father is porno king Pierre Woodman.
Reviewed on June 6, 2021