February 7, 2018

Movie Review: The Devil's Honey

For as wildly inconsistent as Lucio Fulci can be, almost all of his films (at least the ones that I have seen) have something of interest about them. Granted, as much as love and enjoy many of his outings, I realize I have only seen a small slice of his filmography. With that said, when I saw Severin Films announce the release of a Fulci film called The Devil’s Honey, I was immediately intrigued. Besides the opportunity to get more Fulci on Blu-ray, it was a movie I had never even heard of. What is this mysterious Devil’s Honey? Turns out it is an erotic thriller that eschews in your face blood and gore and turns it's attention to in your face, melodramatic, sleaze.

Released in 1986, The Devil’s Honey was Fulci’s followup to Murderock. It came after a lengthy, near deadly bout with viral hepatitis. Even while making the film, he was still quite sick and still recovering from his ordeal. The movie itself can be seen as a bit of departure from what we know of him, but if you look at the bigger picture of his career, it does not seem to stray as much as it does from the subset of his 1980s output. Known for his horror films, it may be surprising to learn he also made giallos, comedies and western. Even the use of nudity and eroticism was not completely foreign, with films such as Don't Torture a Duckling and Perversion Story, it this does seem different still.

Written by a cast of screenwriters, including Jaime Jesus Balcazar, Ludovica Marineo, Sergio Partou, Vincenzo Salviani, and Fulci himself. It is interesting to note that the film bears some similarity to a 1985 film called La Gabbia, directed by Giuseppe Griffi. It turns out Fulci actually wrote that film (at least partially) and sold it while recovering from his illness. I guess he liked it so much he wanted to direct a take on it.

The Devil's Honey, also known as Dangerous Obsession, may not be a particularly great film, but it is a fascinating look into coping with grief and how love can cloud truths all filtered the a lens of Eurosleaze. It seems simultaneously simple and deep. I do not wish to ascribe depth where it is actually just shallow, but, intentionally or not, I think this is an interesting film.

The film circles around a pair of damaged relationships. On one side is Johnny (Stefano Madia), a successful saxophone musician, who is having a torrid love affair with his girlfriend, Jessica (Bianca Marsillach). While the affair seems to be running white hot, Jessica is constantly waffling on her belief of his affections. On the other side is Wendell Simpson (Brett Halsey), a surgeon, who seems intent on spending time with prostitutes than with his wife (Corinne Clery), who knows this despite his efforts to lie to her.

The two sides collide when an unfortunate motorcycle accident lands Johnny on Wendell’s operating table at the same time he is distracted by his wife’s ultimatum. Johnny dies and now Jessica is left with the grief and despair his death brings with it. In a turn somewhat reminiscent of The Killing of a Sacred Deer, Jessica blames the surgeon for his death and sets about a path of revenge.

The second half of the film is centered on Jessica tormenting Wendell, whom she keeps tied up like a dog. It is like a sexual power play as she tortures and teases Wendell, walking around naked and forcing him to eat dog food. All this while she is living in her own torment, plagued with visions of Johnny, memories of the life they had, and then the realization that he was not always the great guy she thought he was. It all leads up to a bizarre conclusion where they sort of get caught up in each other, finding a weird solace to their fractured lives together.

I do not feel the movie sets out to be all that insightful or deep, but somehow it manages more the. Just an erotic thriller, it does touch on so interesting topics. Granted, this is not a film to dwell on exploring a damaged psyche, it is all about the sleaze. Still, it is interesting to consider Wendell and his marital issues and how he tries to overcome at the urging of his wife and to the detriment of his patient, and how he deals with his subsequent predicament, including how views Jessica. Then there is Jessica, a victim of circumstance, a woman who knows what kind of relationship she is in, but is overcome by emotion due to his untimely death and is now victim. To her lack of closure and is lashing out in order to find it.

The Devil's Honey is certainly not a movie for everyone, but for the Fulci fan, it is interesting to see him apply his horror sensibilities to another genre. This is not Fulci at the top of his game, but it certainly is a worthwhile entry in his filmography. It is surprisingly interesting when you consider the thick layer of sleaze the covers the project. This is definitely worth your time, if for nothing other than the over the top kink that opens the movie.

Highly Recommended.

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