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Short Horror Movie: Antivirgen 1: Chi Sei?

The devil wants your mommy in Michael Frost‘s disturbing short horror movie Antivirgen 1: Chi Sei?, which reworks footage from two classic Italian Exorcist rip-offs from the 1970s and transforms them into exactly the kind of nightmare that you wished the originals actually were. Warning: This film is very NSFW, unless of course you work for Fangoria or something.

In the ’70s and ’80s, Italian horror filmmakers where especially fond of taking original American horror movie concepts and beating them down into a bloody pulp. While Exorcist fever gripped all sorts of shlock directors, from blaxploitation trash like the late William Girdler‘s Abby to the crappy legitimate sequel Exorcist II: The Heretic, Italian maestros seemed to churn them out by the bucketful.

Mirrored image of a witch being burned at the stake in a cage

Chi Sei? was one of the more popular and notorious of the possession set, especially when it was released in the U.S. under the title Beyond the Door. This was an Italian and American co-production although it was helmed by the Greek Ovidio G. Assonitis, as well as the American Robert Barrett. Interior scenes were filmed in Italy while exteriors where shot and placed the action in San Francisco. Also, when released in the U.S., directing credit was given to the singular name of “Oliver Hellman.”

In Chi Sei?, Juliet Mills stars as a possessed pregnant mother, who exhibits typical Exorcist-type behavior like spinning her head around and talking nasty about her vagina. Perhaps the one real twist is that instead of just spewing pea soup out of her mouth, Mills scoops it up and starts shoving it back in.

The other film that Frost appropriates for his manipulations is L’anticristo, directed by Alberto De Martino, which at least tried to advance the possession genre to include witchcraft and flashbacks to the Inquisition. Carla Gravina is the possessed gal here who has memories of being trapped in a cage and being terrorized by men in hooded cloaks.

In addition to re-editing the original material together, Frost alters the footage by frequently employing a mirror effect so that two halves of the screen show the same image. Also, I’m not 100% sure since I haven’t seen the original films, but it appears that Frost uses color filters to distort the images.

The mirror effect is a simple device, but it somehow greatly enhances the creepy factor of any video. A similar example of mirroring being put to great use is Michael Robinson’s Light Is Waiting in which a Full House episode is transformed into a Satanic ritual.

Frost also inserts some very simplistic, modern overlays. The most frequently appearing is a glowing neon baby face that neatly ties the beginning and the end of the film together. The strangest overlay is a light blue rectangle box over the eyes of one of the male actors.

When the box effect first appears, it takes the viewer right out of the horrific experience by its obvious clunky-ness. But, as it repeats several times, it grows into the action and reminds us that what makes these types of awful horror movies so charming to fans is just how obvious and fake and what obvious rip-offs the cheap-o special effects actually are.

Lastly, a great part of the overall film’s success has to go to the absolutely haunting sound design by Charles Wright. The heavy low tones and the echo-y dialogue faintly mixed underneath is completely unsettling.

When not trying to scare the bejeezus out of people, Frost and Wright are partners in their own media company, Helsinki Productions. You can check out several examples of their work on Vimeo, which includes original short films and supplementary materials for mainstream fare, such as the film Watchmen and the TV show Fringe.

Their films have screened at the Boston Underground Film Festival and the Atlanta Underground Film Festival.


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