The Video Nasties #62 – Faces of Death (1978, Conan Le Cilaire [John Alan Schwarz])

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‘Prepare yourself for a journey into a world where each new step 

may give you a better understanding of your own reality.’

If there’s one film I could happily have left off this list and never reviewed, it’s Faces of Death. At 106 minutes it’s one of the longest Nasties, and yet ironically it’s the one about which I have the least to say. Do you enjoy watching actual footage of dog fights, seal clubbing and chickens having their heads cut off to the tune of Old McDonald Had A Farm? What about nightmarishly disturbing footage of the aftermath of a road accident involving a cyclist and a lorry, or watching a parachutist plummet to his death? If so, Faces of Death is all yours.

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It purports to be some kind of semi-serious documentary about pathologist Dr Frances B Gross (see what they did there?) and his collection of ‘faces of death’. The apparent seriousness of the endeavour is undercut not just by the hammy narration of the ludicrous ‘Dr Gross’, but by such musical choices as having a song count-in a suicide jumper with a ‘1-2-ah-1-2-3-4’ before she leaps to her onscreen death.

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It’s the cinematic equivalent of slowing down to look at a car crash. Actually, forget that, it’s the equivalent of pulling over to the side of the road and taking photos of the corpses. The only way the film could possibly have been watchable would be if the whole thing had been staged, like many of the death scenes are. A ridiculous crocodile attack and even sillier bear mauling might raise a chuckle if the footage surrounding it wasn’t so utterly depressing.

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I actually watched the making-of documentary on the DVD and was initially relieved to see that a monkey brain eating sequence was faked. However, then the fucking asshole fx guy starts laughing about how the monkey kept trying to bite the rubber mallet they were hitting it with. How about we trap you in a table and hit you pal? Still funny?

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It’s dreary, miserable garbage and I hated almost every second of it. There’s a goofy song at the end (sample line – ‘Life goes on, flowers die; Then a newborn baby cries’) over footage of a woman giving birth, but it’s too little too late. I’m not gonna waste any more time talking about Faces of Death, because – in the words of Dr Frances B Gross – ‘It occurred to me how short life really is.’

Amen to that, you fucking creep.

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