Last year, between the two of us, we watched an average of 317 movies.
This year our goal is to top that by watching at least one a day.
And as an extra special torture, we've decided to write about all of them.

22 March 2008

Albert Fish, dir. John Borowski (2007)

NIKKI says:
This was a difficult film to watch. Interested as I was in learning about Albert Fish, I was not prepared for the brutality of this film. That I had to hear about little Grace Budd's horrific murder was one thing, (my choice, really, given the subject matter), it was another to witness long scenes of whippings and simulated cannibalism.

Borowski doesn't have much to work with, so I can understand the need for some padding. No one from the Fish family probably wants to be interviewed for such a film. And those involved in the investigation are all surely dead. Instead, Borowksi chooses true crime writer Katherine Ramsland and Oddities Museum curator Joe Coleman to discuss Fish, to give their insights into his psyche. Surely there are other informed minds out there that could have given us deeper insight into Fish. I could have used them over Borowski's recreations of Fish's crimes.

It would appear, though, that Borowski's purpose is not understanding or psychological insight. The website for his film proudly informs us that Albert Fish was an official selection at the Bloodbath UK Horror and Exploitation Festival. That's exactly what this felt like at times -- exploitation. Borowski could have sliced the running time by half if he'd stuck to telling me about Albert Fish. There's a moment in the film when Joe Coleman tries to explain why he hangs Fish's horrendous death-letter, written to Grace Budd's parents, on his wall. It's something that must be confronted, he says, this horror in the world.

That might be true, but Borowski goes that extra step and suddenly we're not confronted by real horror but beaten over the head with an idea of it. The words in that letter are confronting enough without Borowski superimposing frying rump steaks over an image of a boy's behind being whipped over scenes of an old man eating meat.

The history was there, and the research was impeccable. It's Boroswki's execution that does me in. It's not that I can't stomach his style, it's that I don't think I should have to. The purpose is to document not recreate.


STEVE says:
I didn't know much about the specifics of Albert Fish, only that he had a predilection for eating children and that he'd stuck more than a dozen pins deep into himself over the years. This doco didn't do much to expand that knowledge, as it seemed to want to gloss over the facts to get to the gross-out bits.

It must be said, I'm a big fan of the gross-out. But not at the expense of the story, which is what happened here. Borowsky gave us all the salient facts on Fish, but instead of telling a story, he told us "what happened", and that's not the same thing.

Albert Fish was also heavily reliant on the re-enactment - used here instead of the animation in H. H. Holmes - which, ironically, distanced me from the movie, rather than drawing me in, as would have been Borowsky's intention. Implied horror is always better than shoving it right in your audience's face. And when you're re-enacting fantasy sequences, well... that's just a whole new landscape of the bizarre.


No comments: