Director: Joel Seria
Mondo Macabro

The first film of director Joël Séria, this previously banned spectacle of warped innocence and decadent delights was (and remains) a threat to the culturally fixed and strictly enforced dictates of stability, status quo arrogance, and the commonly held belief of the conservative media in unbendable, fixed concepts or morality. It’s also sleazy if intelligent exploitive fun!

Both scathing and poetic, the intimately disturbing story and confident direction of this warped bit of celluloid psychosis manages in a delicate balance between excess and social critique to be both terrifying and tender. Its emotionally effective handling of such subversive themes is probably why it was feared by censors and proponents of the moral majority. Thumbing its nose at convention and then-common dictates of good taste, this torrid coming of age story dares to be amoral while treating its characters and approach maturely. Refusing to flinch or close its eyes to the emotional/psychological brutalities between society and Self, this movie sheds innocence as easily as skin as two believably depicted girls on the verge of womanhood trade school-girl innocence for the pursuit of decadence.

The story, scripted with surprising restraint and psychological insight, interweaves the atmosphere of an exploitation film with the attempt at emotional significance so often aimed for the arthouse crowd. Character emphasis, often exchanged for the visceral pleasures of violence in the exploitation film, here is the major driving force behind the emotionally taunt narrative. Before this sends you running in terror for all the wrong reasons, let me assure you that DON’T DELIVER ME FROM EVIL definitely delivers the unsettling, emotionally seething goods! The movie is intelligent without pretension, serious and fun in a sordid, dirty kind of way – not surprising considering its taboo subject matter and the tender ages of the girls involved. Setting its action in rustic, quiet appearing little French village, two convent girls (oh yea, baby! It’s that kind of movie!) Anne (Jeanna Goupil) and Lore (Catherine Wagener) find themselves captivated not by hot boy bands, cuddly teddy bears, or secret springtime crushes but by the secret promise of naked skin, a budding, overpowering sexuality, and the cruel destructive pleasures that bind them closer together. Caught in a self-induced downward cycle of temptation and sin, they are in danger of losing what innocence they ever had, and, perhaps, their lives.

The script, revealing a culture drowned in secret excesses, where people kneel down before the pulpit on Sundays and go down on each other every other day, interweaves moments of an idealistic rural environment with profoundly disturbing (yet enticing) imagery. More importantly, the characters are never less than believable, managing to be both innocent and tempting as they awkwardly embrace the forbidden. The young actresses are a major reason for the movie’s believability and seductive tension. Both Jeanna Goupil and Catherine Wagner handle their roles professionally, turning in not so much a performance as what one would be tempted to think might have been an extension of their own sexual maturity and moral questionings. Bernard Dheran and Gerard Darrieu are more workmanlike and less inspired in their roles, but certainly display a sense of professionalism missing in most low budget (and high budget) movies. A scathing condemnation of the often inhuman human condition and intellectual peep show, this movie is an emotional vivisection. As the girls graduate from such harmless diversions as reading dirty books beneath the covers to such devious diversions as devoting themselves to abusing small animals, the question becomes is it the devil who makes them do it or something primal in their basic instinctive natures? You might not like the answer.

Throughout the movie a sense of unease is almost physically palpable as the girls remove themselves more from the common terms of life and find greater meaning in one another and their newfound devotion to Satan. Flaunting the conventions of its cultural context no less than the girls flaunt the morally rigid expectations of small town society, this Mondo Macabro presentation is a problem child of genre filmmaking, Feeling for all the world like an exploitation movie while showing little of the nudity or blood expected in one, its low-key approach to the sensational makes it more disturbing. While satisfactory amounts of sexuality are certainly available in this gorgeously filmed ode to perversity, the emphasis is clearly on character development, not spectacle.

A loose adaptation of the Pauline Parker/Juliet Hulme murder (played more accurately in Peter Jackson’s HEAVENLY CREATURES), DON’T DELIVER US FROM EVIL is an understated, unashamed, and unapologetic descent into the darkness of the human mind and spirit. While the depiction of youth facing corruption has been a staple of exploitation for decades, the actresses portray ambiguous vixens with satisfying panache, making the old seem new as they wiggle, struggle, pet, and scream in all the right places. They can act too. And Seria can direct, using the camera as an active eye with which to spy all the subversive action.

As technologically skillful as it is thematically blistering, the film’s closing moments are perhaps the most memorable. The ending of this film hits like a hard hammer blow to the head. It is truly an exploitation film of the mind. If not for everyone (and what is?!), as able to raise hackles and indignation as ever, the movie may disappoint audiences looking for nothing but sleaze and slaughter. As fun as these dubious pleasures may be, this movie is undeniably honest. The director chose to treat shocking situations with sensitivity and emotional depth. As such, usual trappings of genre are exchanged for emotional unease.

While this movie has been available on home video in various edited editions, Mondo Macabro presents it uncut in what may be its first complete edition. Presented anamorphic at 1.66:1, sparse print damage is noticeable, but this is to be expected in such an obscure movie, and the high quality of color, line detail, and flesh tone prove the dedication to quality that the company tries to maintain. Mondo Macabro’s respectful treatment of the movie as both thriller and cultural artifact is evident in the high quality of picture and sound. French dialogue is offered in mono with English subtitles. The generally excellent extras provide an informative historical context to the mayhem, including an interview with director Séria, where he discuses various thematic interpretations, and the censorship problems that plagued him upon release. A second interview, this time with Goupil, discusses her initial lack of experience, her co-star, and her attitude about the feature. In addition, the actress discuses how she approached the role, her comments inviting further appreciation of the role. "Hellish Creatures," another featurette, covers the film's historical inspiration, which, along with an "About the Film" essay, some bios, and the party-favorite Mondo Macabro preview reel, round out this thoughtful exploitation feature of mind and conscience. (William P. Simmons)

Check out the Mondo Macabro website by clicking HERE.