Praised by many (including Roger Ebert) and vilified by others, Alejandro Jodorowsky’s Santa Sange sits poised uneasily between the world of art house cinema and exploitation horror. Because its slasher horror content is occasionally so extreme, it originally earned an NC-17 rating—a rating that was later surrendered by the filmmakers in order to put back footage that had been trimmed to secure any kind of rating at all. In this—and in many other respects—the film earns its polarizing nature. There are scenes that are bound to offend everyone in the audience at one point or another, which is deliberate. A weird collaboration between Jodorowsky and Claudio Argento (brother of Italian horror director Dario Argento), the film is a mix of influences, including Luis Buñuel, Tod Browning, James Whale, Hitchcock, German Expressionism, John Waters and extremely gory splatter movies. But the film ultimately manages to be pure Jodorowsky—with everything that implies, including the uncertainty as to whether the filmmaker is really as wacko as he appears, or if it’s at least partly a contrived persona. Is the man a genius, a madman or a charlatan? My guess is that he’s a bit of all three. What’s most alarming is that Santa Sangre is probably the most accessible of his films.
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