Director: Raffaele Picchio
Synapse Films

"Evil prevails" in more ways than one in the Italian-banned gore throwback MORITURIS on Blu-ray courtesy of Synapse Films.

Romanian schoolteachers (Valentina D'Andrea and Désirée Giorgetti) on a road trip with three young Italians (Andrea De Bruyn, Giuseppe Nitti, and Simone Ripanti) they met at a disco to a rave purportedly in the middle of the forest. Under the pretense of getting directions from Jacques (Francesco Malcom Trulli), the cousin of one of the men, they set up their alibi and manage to confiscate the only phone that is not out of range as they move deeper into the Italian countryside. Stumbling across ancient Roman ruins that the only man who went to classical school determines was a hunting ground based on the Latin inscription "Here be lions", the group build a bonfire to ostensibly wait for the other ravers. Once everyone has had their fill of booze, cocaine, and a little glue-sniffing, the three men turn on the women, raping them and making unambiguous their intent to kill them once they are through. The two women manage to break free of their captivity and escape into the dark forest. With the men in pursuit, the rapists and their victims soon realize that they are all the prey of a quintet of living dead gladiators wielding weapons to maim, crush, and disembowel them before the night is over.

Coming across like a mixture of Lamberto Bava 1980s-era gothic horror ala GRAVEYARD DISTURBANCE or the film within a film of DEMONS with a heaping of seventies sadism a la LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT (which, Italian genre fans will recall, inspired a spate of Italian cash-ins), MORITURIS is not the comeback of Italian horror and largely undistinguishable from much indie horror (setting withstanding). It's not really a rape-revenge film since the supernatural threat does not distinguish between the villains – upper-class Italian youths with college educations who attempt to wax philosophical but have boorish manners and racist attitudes – and the victims (who may have also have chosen the Italians over the black man they say approached them before). The women at least get a chance to fight back, and the nude crucifixion of one of them might be interpreted as a sort of martyrdom, while the guys deserved go out screaming (although perhaps too quickly to be cathartic). The practical effects of Sergio Stivaletti (THE STENDHAL SYNDROME), while rarely convincing, are as grisly as anything you would find in MOTHER OF TEARS but the characters are mannequins before they have their heads lopped off or crushed. Only the brutality carried out against the women elicits a visceral response even as the camera coyly cuts away and around the most heinous acts, including Jacques's torturing a young manicurist (Bianca Ciocca) in front of a screen projecting the climax of BLOODY PIT OF HORROR with a hungry rat in a manner that by implication goes beyond THE VIRGIN OF NUREMBERG. Other than Jacques, none of the main characters are given proper names (all credited as numbered "Moriturus" during the closing credits).

Although the cover states the aspect ratio as 1.85:1, the framing of this 1080p24 MEPG-4 AVC widescreen encode looks somewhere between 1.85:1 and 2.00:1. The HD videography is mostly of a high quality but does not really seem to scream Blu-ray with crispness of detail in the atmospheric settings reduced by the film's color correction and film-look effects. The default track is Italian LPCM 2.0 stereo but a 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track is also included that gives a bit more spread to the score and some atmospheric effects. The only subtitle option is an English SDH track which sometimes seems awkwardly translated but it may be doing its best with the faux-philosophical dialogue. The SDH option is welcome but, for a foreign film, there probably should also have been an option that only translated the dialogue. The, thankfully, sole extra is a trailer for the film. The cover is reversible with more graphic artwork on the reverse asking the facile questions "Will anyone survive? Will they all die?" on one side of its crucified nude and the answer "Evil prevails" on the other side. (Eric Cotenas)