Morituris: Legions of the Dead Blu-ray Review
Written by ZigZag
Blu-ray released by Synapse Films
Directed by Raffaele Picchio
Written by Gianluigi Perrone
2011, 83 minutes, Not Rated
Blu-ray released on September 8th, 2015
Andrea De Bruyn
Two unsuspecting Romanian tourists get more than they bargained for after agreeing to join three Italians for a late night party in the woods. Yes, the ride out there is filled with music, drugs and idle chit-chat, but things take a significantly darker turn once they reach their destination. Apparently the guys said “rape party” not “rave party” and soon the ladies are on the receiving end of some seriously bad news. There is a possible ray of hope for the girls, however, as undead Roman gladiators appear and exact a brutal revenge on the trespassers. Are these figures chivalrous? Will the ladies survive the ordeal? Unfortunately, the answer is, “Who cares?”
Newcomer Raffaele Picchio directs this sleazy low-budget misfire with an amateurish glee. Morituris revels in its ability to shock audiences, but that same energy is absent from Gianluigi Perrone’s screenplay, based on a story by Picchio and Tiziano Martello. It took three people to write this mess and still the patchwork of ideas fails to connect. Two subplots are shoehorned in to pad the running time, the first involving a pre-credit sequence of an unidentified family picnic that ends in murder. The scene is presented as 8mm home movie found footage, but is ineptly shot and edited in a manner that betrays any attempt at authenticity. The second features the torture of an anonymous prostitute at the hands of a sociopath who is friends with the Italian jackholes in the woods. This scenario brings nothing to the table but additional misogyny and physical abuse highlighted by a brutal gag lifted from Bret Easton Ellis’ American Psycho.
This is shaping up to be quite a disappointment in terms of writing and directing, and unfortunately the acting is not any better, as the nameless characters spend the first half of the film delivering increasingly tedious dialogue, and the remainder of the running time is filled with screaming and bickering. Somehow, the production convinced legendary makeup artist Sergio Stivaletti (Demons) to contribute the gory effects (I’m assuming the check cleared), but everything is so poorly lit that much of his work is hidden within the murk of shadows. Morituris bills itself as a return to the classic Italian horror films of the 1970s and ‘80s, but as a longtime fan of that style of cinema, I can assure you this is not the case. There is also an attempt to match the brutality of American grindhouse pictures of the era, and this too is a misguided effort, as the director lacks the talents of both Dario Argento (Opera) and Wes Craven (The Last House on the Left).
On its own merits, this movie is a weak entry in the torture-porn subgenre and will hopefully be forgotten just as quietly as it debuted. The idea of introducing undead Roman gladiators into the mix is both novel and appealing, but fumbled in execution. The soldiers resemble the unstoppable Templar monks of the Spanish classic Tombs of the Blind Dead, but outside of a clever animated sequence under the opening credits, there is little effort to explain their inclusion. I have tried to think of anything worth recommending in this picture, but I am at a loss as the missed opportunities here are legion. Hopefully a more talented filmmaker will run with the undead gladiator theme and create something worthwhile, but for now I suggest you avoid this mess and spare yourself eighty-five minutes of regret.
Video and Audio:
Morituris is presented in the original 1.85:1 aspect ratio and Synapse Films makes the most of the limited picture quality. The image is inherently dark with heavy shadows but this is more an example of incompetence in the source material than a problem with the transfer.
The Italian language film is presented in a default DTS-HD MA 2.0 track that gets the job done. Also included on this disc is a slightly expanded DTS-HD MA 5.1 mix that is marginally stronger.
English subtitles are provided for anyone in need.
A theatrical trailer is the only special feature on this disc.