Scrapbook DVD Review
Written by Daniel Benson
DVD released by Sub Rosa Pictures
Directed by Eric Stanze
Written by Tommy Biondo
2000, 95 minutes, Unrated
Tommy Biondo as Leonard
Emily Haack as Clara
Todd Tevlin as Biffle Morris
Elizabeth Hammock as Young Leonard's Sister
Sam Maiden Jr. as Young Leonard's Brother
As the film opens, Leonard (Tommy Biondi) is manhandling the freshly disemboweled corpse of a young woman from the back of a van while a young girl crouches, sobbing at the sight before her. The somber, monochrome titles roll, only hinting at the rough ride upon which the viewer is about to embark
The young girl, Clara (Emily Haack), comes round from a stupor and is greeted by the sneering face of Leonard. They are sitting at the kitchen table in his stinking, rotten hovel of a home. He recounts to Clara his life story, how he started killing at the age of 15 and enjoyed it, how he likes to keep mementos of his victims and how, at the age of 27, the world is ready to hear his story. A story which will be told through the pages if his precious scrapbook, and a story in which Clara will be the final chapter.
Leonard likes to build a picture of his victims through photographing them suffering and forcing them to write a journal in the scrapbook. He sets about gathering material for the book from Clara immediately, confining her to a tiny, blood-soaked room and beating her. To satisfy his sick needs he brutally rapes her and when he's finished, to add ultimate humiliation to her degradation, he urinates on her quivering, bloodied body.
Over the following days, Clara suffers further brutalization at the hands of Leonard and an abortive escape attempt results in swift and savage retribution from her captor. It begins to dawn on Clara that if she has any chance of surviving her ordeal she will need to defeat Leonard not by physical, but by psychological means. The way to get to Leonard is through his scrapbook.
Through writing her journal in the book, Clara attempts to convince Leonard that she is grateful for being shown the error of her ways, and that she is beginning to have feelings for him. She seduces Leonard in a session of fumbling, awkward, almost consensual sex. Once over, Leonard is so furious at his loss of control he lets go in a fit of rage and savagely rapes Clara with an empty bottle from the floor of his home.
Undeterred, Clara continues to influence her aggressor by continually massaging his ego through the pages of the book. Only when she has full control over Leonard's actions can she hope to escape from the living hell she finds herself in.
One of my biggest complaints with low budget cinema is that it's difficult for independent films to convey a sense of realism on a restricted budget. It came as quite a shock to find that Scrapbook pulls off this feat despite its meager origins. I'm in two minds as to whether this is a good thing, as it stands this movie is one hell of a harrowing experience for the viewer and you get the impression it wasn't far off that for Emily Haack.
Both Biondo and Haack put in pretty solid performances, the former being a very believable psychopath and the latter screaming and sobbing convincingly, but putting forward a credible character in the few dialogue scenes she has.
The movie itself could have so easily suffered from making its low budget obvious had it not been so well directed and edited. While the interior dialogues between Leonard and Clara have a 'hollow' sound to them (presumably from not being filmed on a proper soundstage), other scenes in the movie remove the obvious low-budget traits with a few crafty tricks. The exterior scenes, which could have been marred by wind noise, are overlaid with a grating electronic score which adds to the discomfort the viewer feels while witnessing how Leonard dishes out his punishments. Any prosthetic work is kept to a minimum, and any that is shown on screen is brief and works well.
Tommy Biondo spent 5 years researching and writing Scrapbook which is, according to the opening credits, 'based on actual events'. The film was shot over just 13 days in 1999, but wasn't edited and finished until some time later. Just as Eric Stanze had completed post production on the film and was about to send Biondo a copy, he received news that Tommy had been taken into hospital with head injuries from a film shoot he was on. Tommy Biondo died on August 6 1999 at the young age of 26 having never seen the finished product which was finally edited and released in 2000.
I can honestly say that this is not a movie I will watch again, I found the experience far too unpalatable. It is testament to Stanze's skills as a director that he pulled of such a powerful piece of cinema on a restricted budget. Scrapbook stands as both a stark reminder to horror fans that there are more horrific subjects for movies than zombies or werewolves, and as a fitting epitaph to the talent of Tommy Biondo.
Video and Audio:
The picture is washed out and quite grainy, although this is to be expected for a film of this budget. It's presented in 4:3 Aspect Ratio.
The film is presented with a stereo soundtrack which does the job, and no more. Nothing more than the stereo track is required for this film.
- Documentary - The Making of Scrapbook (15mins)
- 4 Preview Trailers for other Eric Stanze Movies
- Audio Commentary by Eric Stanze
- Tommy Biondo Biography
Considering the size of Sub Rosa as an outfit for releasing DVD's they have gone to a great effort in including as much relevant extra material as possible. Not as much as you would get on a disc from some of the 'bigger' studios, but enough to put some of them to shame. I confess that I didn't listen to the audio commentary as I didn't want to witness the images in the film over again so soon. I may check this out in the future, perhaps when the memory of the film finally fades.
|Movie:||– Harrowing, uncomfortable, brutal and sadistic. A worthwhile experience for any horror fan.|
|Video:||– Low budget, low quality. It would be unfair to mark it down any further as it does not detract from the viewing experience.|
|Audio:||– A solid track, but surround mixing might have added to the film’s claustrophobic atmosphere.|
|Features:||– As with the video, to be expected for a low budget production.|
|Overall:||– Great effort from a small company.|