My blood is far from holy, although I have given it enough of it through the years to support a small church!
Screenplay By: Claudio Argento, Alejandro Jodorowsky, & Roberto Leoni
Directed By: Alejandro Jodorowsky
We’ve all heard it many times before, describing a movie as a nightmare. At first that’s how I was going to describe Santa Sangre. It is a film, after all, that does have plenty in common with a nightmare. It also relies quite heavily on nightmare imagery. Throughout Santa Sangre I was convinced that Alejandro Jodorowsky was making me trek through a nightmare sprung from his mind. Then the end happened, and I realized that my initial read of the film was quite wrong. Santa Sangre is a nightmare journey, but the film itself is not about the nightmarish journey. The ending is about release, and finally finding happiness. The ending of Santa Sangre is about becoming your own person, and finally waking from the nightmare. Señor Jodorowsky had me convinced he was making one type of movie and then at the very end he pulled the rug out from under my feet and showed me how I had been too quick to categorize and label his film.
Don’t misread what I’m saying, or to clarify my less than coherent ramblings, Santa Sangre is a nightmare of a horror movie. The atmosphere of the film and the film’s structure are built around the idea of an acid trip fueled nightmare. The ending does make a difference in my final interpretation of Santa Sangre, but it doesn’t change the atmosphere built by señor Jodorowsky. He doesn’t just throw ideas at the viewer, or oddball imagery. There’s a reason behind every shot and sequence in Santa Sangre. The film has a clear beginning and end, just as by the time the end credits roll it was clear to me that the film had an easy to decipher plot. The horror of Santa Sangre is in the clarity of the plot and the realization that these nightmare actions could easily take place in our reality.
The only area where I felt a twinge of disappointment towards Santa Sangre was in the gore effects. Specifically the way that a couple of the murders were handled, and the way that blood was represented. Perhaps señor Jodorowsky was going for something that I didn’t catch on to, but too often the gore/blood looked fake. And not just fake, but the kind of fake that draws one out of the experience of the film. When a character has his genitals scorched with acid, that works. The blood that follows that is very believable and drew me further into the film. When same character slits their throat, the arterial spray that was very obviously some sport of syrup or paint was unbelievable and took me out of the film. Small gripes, but I never enjoy being taken out of the film I’m watching.
It’s odd for me to spend a good junk of a review for an Alejandro Jodorowsky film talking about how clear the film was in its aims, narrative, and plot. Yet, that’s what I come away from Santa Sangre thinking. It’s a nightmarish vision, a trip inside of a characters mind that is none too pleasant to behold. The unpleasantness gives way to admiration for the craft on display. I was surprised by how deftly the film inserted its ending message, and how succinctly it managed to tie together the motion picture as a whole. I’m not surprised that I liked Santa Sangre as much as I did. Señor Jodorowsky makes interesting films, they are heady, horrific, and technically proficient at the same time. No matter what watching a film from señor Jodorowsky is an experience, and Santa Sangre is no different.