Ogroff: Blood Zone 1983
aka Mad Mutilator
Directed by: N.G. Moutier
Starring: Robert Alaux, Francoise Deniel, Howard Vernon
Review by Luisito Joaquín González
Way back in the days before the slasher genre was even a genre and before the Internet had given us a much easier way of tracking down information, a horror fan was simply a horror fan. The likes of Frankenstein, Dracula and The Exorcist had given cinema goers the chance to be scared and it was an escapism that provided great thrills, away from our mundane 9-5 routines. Supernatural terror storytelling has been embedded in folklore for many centuries, but when it comes to gore and special effects depicted on stage for audience consumption, links can most definitely be traced to the theatre of Grand Guignol from France. As I have described in my review for William Lustig’s Maniac, these large scale productions gave viewers the chance to be terrified in the comfort that it was all only an illusion and they could turn away/walk-out at any moment that they wanted to. We humans are a morbid bunch, but thankfully we no longer satisfy our blood lust from public executions and the like. Now we just watch it on the stage or screen.
Norbert Georges Moutier, as publisher of a popular horror fanzine in Paris and owner of a video store, was obviously well aware of France’s links with gore-laden horror and being an avid enthusiast, he decided to bring Grand Guignol back to French screens with his own low budget shocker. Inspired heavily by the popular titles of the time, Moutier’s extremely rare slasher is an extravaganza of ingredients.
It tells the tale of Ogroff, a wooden-hut dwelling maniac, whose soul ambition in life seems to be to murder anyone who trespasses across the small patch of woodland that he calls home. As the story unfolds, it takes a slightly different angle to most conventional slasher flicks as the antagonist learns that he is not the only bogeyman in that secluded piece of woodland.
Unlike the majority of archetypal genre entries, this is an extremely intriguing beast. I studied French at school and have visited the country many times, but French is not one of the languages that I speak fluently. It wouldn’t matter if I were stone deaf however as the feature has only eight lines of dialogue, which makes it the closest that we have to a ‘silent slasher film’. As mentioned above, it’s easy to see that Ogroff is a film made for horror fans by a horror fan. It plays like a myriad of clichés jumbled together and thrown into a juxtaposition that although not over-long, can often feel like a check-list of trademarks that have been sewn together with no apparent structure.
It’s like a shoplifter in a stripy black and white top with a bag that has the wording ‘swag’ on it, because it’s not afraid of its obvious pilfering and openly imitates titles such as Friday the 13th Part II, The Burning, Burial Ground and even some of the cannibal flicks that were popular during that period. You can almost picture NG Moutier working in his video shop, much as a certain Quentin Tarantino would a few years later, and writing his ideas into a notepad whilst an omnibus of horror classics played on in the background.
Although this tries its damnedest to shock with its brazen approach and no holds barred gratuitous imagery, by far the scariest sight in the feature is that of a Citroen 2CV. Yes, one of those terrifying French yoghurt-pot-on-wheels, which bizarrely became far more popular than they had any right to after World War II. Fortunately, Ogroff does his nation proud by dismantling it completely with his trusty axe! This killer is not in the slightest bit picky and dismembers pretty much everything that he comes across from unfortunate locals to poorly parked vehicles and even chess boards. You name it, he can smash it with his big shiny hatchet.
Is it gory? Yes; but the effects are so tacky that they don’t quite sit in line with the level of the video nasties of that era. Short, cheap and hokey are more apt descriptions. There are limbs and heads flying by the bucket-load and a multitude of gore-laden scenarios, but the effects never impress as would a Maniac or The Prowler. Ogroff himself is as wacky as the plot structure, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but the director’s eagerness to make him as gratuitously evil as possible leaves him looking far more comedic than he is scary. His motives are twisted and he dons an excellent mask, but he lacks the fear factor that led his peers to cult classic status.
The feature sticks closely to the slasher rulebook and the masked axe-wielding killer as a central character makes no mistake as to where the inspirations lie. With that said, things aren’t strictly conventional because there is someone for everyone and I am sure that on dating direct, there is even a category for masked raving lunatics. Well, Monsieur Ogroff finds himself a Mademoiselle and impressed by his large chopper, she moves in and the two fall in love. All is going swimmingly for our murderous hero, especially as he can now come home from a hard days killing and have his dinner on the table waiting for him. It could have been a happily ever after lifetime of blood, guts and romance, only if it weren’t for some pesky zombies turn up toward the climax of the feature. From here on out, the story enters authentic territory as our bogeyman wages battle against the hordes of the living dead that have invaded his killing zone.
NG Moutier would go on to direct a few more direct-to-video titles, which would unfortunately fail to provide him with the cult status that he so desperately aspired to achieve. Blood Zone on the other hand remains interesting mainly because it’s so amazingly obscure. Even though I could never comfortably recommend this feature to anybody, if you enjoyed the work of Nathan Schiff, you’ll lap it up greedily. There’s nothing else in the world that it can be compared to.
Final Girl √√