REVIEW: Pazucus: Island of Vomit and Despair
– By James Pemberton
Charles Bukowski once said “Some people never go insane. What horrible lives they must lead!” Clearly this is not the way for the characters in PAZUCUS: ISLAND OF VOMIT AND DESPAIR, as whilst they seem to act and look crazed and insane their lives are blighted by horrors all around them. Their insanity is reflected in Gewdner’s film which is somewhat of a strange piece of underground genre cinema, art house horror, B-movie monster horror and deliberately maddening genre flick that is deliberately frustrating and uneasy to pin point as to what it actually is about.
The plot, if there is one to focus on, follows Carlos (Mars) who is constantly vomiting partly thanks to voices in his head that are driving him bonkers and forcing him to go to the titular island of Pazucus. He is not helped by his doctor (Mars again) who has suggested he goes there and who is prone to going around killing people in fits of madness that look like Carlos, as he also wants to kill his patient. The doctor has suggested that Omar (Gewdner) and his girlfriend Orestia (Menezes) also go to the island of Pazucus to camp there for the rest of their lives. The lovers experience the hostility of the environment whilst simultaneously embracing it. At the same time a group of monsters, who might be from another dimension though could also be the voices in Carlos’ head are trying to get onto the island to cause destruction. Along with the doctor, the couple, the monsters and Carlos the island is invaded by a weird combination of hostile nature destroying and psychotic humans and invasion by creatures intent on mankind’s destruction. I think that might be what happened?
If anything PAZUCUS is like watching the contents of a person’s mind, albeit the mind of someone who has completely lost it mentally so to speak, and is happy with their madness. The film ping pongs around random situations, mad soundtrack cues that include extracts from ZOMBIE FLESH EATERS, THE SHINING and even Fleetwood Mac and an almost abstract art house flick, genre horror and borderline mental comedy and grotesqueness that would fit right in a Bill Zebub underground horror flick. The actors have not much to do aside from look crazed, shout or throw up and whilst this is ideal for a film like this, as it fits in with the psychotic bent that it follows narratively, it certainly becomes a tiring experience and almost totally drains the viewer to the point of being exhausted and annoyed, especially at 111 minutes.
Whilst I appreciate the director setting out a singular and decidedly unique vision with his approach to the film, it almost seems deliberate in testing the audience’s patience and it wont be hard to see this not being screened at many festivals as it could be an off putting experience for some who might come out annoyed and thinking that this was a joke. Granted I do like Mars as Carlos’ doctor, who spends much of his film staring with a constant manic grin and murdering, anyone, man, women and animal (stuffed toy animal that is) who he thinks looks like his vomiting patient. It’s a bizarre consistently mental act that increases the absurdist tone of the film. While Gewdner is probably having a laugh at making something so maddening, he seems to throw in a slight theme of nature and man existing in a state of confrontation and destruction. A theme that seems to be the focus of the couple, Omar and Orestia, who confront nature in a hostile and violent fashion. Also the group of monsters from another dimension are also intent on the destruction of mankind, or vomiting all over it for all intents and purposes. Leading them to invade what looks like the director’s attempts at a cheesy 50’s beach movie party scene and attacking the dumb and destructive humans. Or is all of what we are seeing in Carlos’ head, or is it someone else’s head?
The effects in the film are decidedly crude, rough and bordering on the scatological, with many body fluids on display and paper mache headed monsters, that whilst looking cheap (intentionally or most likely) are actual nice throwbacks to cheesy monster movies and even some 80’s straight to video horrors which add to the genre tone the film continuously flirts with. Its interesting to note the director makes his genre influences clear at the end with a credit/thank you to an array of film-makers. Whilst the nod to the genre is clear, there are moments of madness in PAZUCUS that might generate more annoyance than respect and would lead many hardcore horror fans to feel a bit cheated. This is partly not helped with the lengthy running time, which as mentioned before, is a test of viewers’ patience and would maybe wish the director had cut this down to 80 minutes. Maybe that’s the whole point as PAZUCUS has a unique style and one that reminded of underground horror that is decidedly happy, even proud in its attack on normal narrative convention. If anything this might be true punk rock cinema. No conventional form, no adhering to anything approaching normal and with a deliberate underlining anarchic tone. Whilst it is very flawed and definitely not to everyone’s taste, there’s no denying that Gewdner has crafted something that at least will leave a somewhat queasy and startled impression.