Fur is murder
It's Saturday, so that means another creature feature. This one is a little different than your typical SyFy channel animal movie. I decided to look outside the box and what better way to do that than with a Dario Argento movie. I have to confess I have not seen any of Argento's work. I think a big reason is that his work either came out before I was of viewing age, most hasn't been in American theaters, and they are almost never shown on television. Thankfully, he has done some work for the Masters of Horror series, bringing his demented visions to a wider American audience.
Pelts, based on the short story by F. Paul Wilson, stars Meat Loaf (Fight Club, Celebrity Apprentice) as boorish fur trader/manufacturer Jake Feldman. His main suppler of fur is trapper Jameson and his son. They go onto the land of the mysterious Mother Maters and find their traps full of racoons among the bizarre ruins. They brutally kill the animals and skin them. Jake meanwhile is at a strip club to see his favorite dancer, Shanna. Jake tries to force himself on her and is physically rejected. Jameson contacts Jake and tells him that the pelts are the most beautiful fur he's ever seen. Some unseen force comes over Jameson's son and he viciously bashes his father's head in with a baseball bat before placing his head in an animal trap. Jake arrives at Jameson's, takes the pelts and anonymously informs the police. Jake has his workers fashion a beautiful coat out of the pelts to be shown at a fur expo. The people working on the coat soon commit suicide in particularly horrific fashion, one using a scissor to cut himself open and a seamstress sewing her eyes, nose, and mouth shut. Jake heads to Mother Maters land to talk about the racoons in hopes that she would give him more for another coat. Maters explains that the racoons, or pinelights as she calls them, guard the ruins on her land and she in turn guards the pinelights. Jake brings the coat to Shanna so she can be his model. Will the same gruesome fate fall on Jake and Shanna?
Oh yeah, I see the problem. You have no face.
God damn is this movie violent! If you are squeamish when it comes to guts and blood, you may want to shut your eyes because there is a lot of it. While some movies show a bit and cut away, Pelts actually goes for the squishy closeups. The makeup and prosthetic artists deserve a lot of praise because everything looks very good. There is also a lot of nudity, so if you watch movies with a young horror fan, you may just want to skip this one for a while. Also, there's a sex scene involving Meat Loaf that may traumatize people more than the violence. While the violence may shock, it's the music that brings out the fear. A creepy “lala” style song plays when the characters look at the fur and right before the killing starts.
Meat Loaf puts on a good performance as the disgusting Jake Feldman, though the need to make him Jewish, or at least sound Jewish, is unnecessary. Maybe it was unintentional. The story itself is basic, but entertaining nonetheless. Dario's directing is spot-on, with good shots and no scenes wasted. The insane love of the pelts brings to mind scenes from The Lord of the Rings triology where characters fall in love with the one ring. If people killing themselves in bloody fashion for a supernatural sounds familiar, that's because M. Night Shyamalan's The Happening essentially used the same idea two years later.
I'll never eat at Olive Garden again!
Pelts is an entertaining, if not disturbing, watch. You'll find yourself simultaneously cringing, laughing, and shouting curse words at all the action. The final scene in particular will bring out all these emotions. Meat Loaf and the supporting cast all do a fine job and the effects are solid. The story is simple and fun, but definitely not appropriate for a younger audience. If you're like me and really hate animal cruelty, it may bother you some, but if you see it as a revenge movie, it can take away some of the uncomfortableness. This is a very good introduction for people like myself unfamiliar with Dario Argento's work. Definitely check it out.