Craig Murray, “Amalgam” (2007)
Using just a handycam and his own home as set to make a black-and-white film on next-to-no budget starring himself and a few friends, Craig Murray creates a sinister yet surprisingly comples psycho-slasher flick that looks part “Repulsion”, part “Tetsuo: Iron Man”, part “M” and all extended experimental art / horror music clip. As far as I can tell, the film is a study of an unnamed man (Murray) tormented by recurring images of a giant blonde doll that attacks him at regular intervals in his house and throws him all over bathroom fixtures and other furniture. In between those occasions, he himself attacks, tortures and kills girlfriends and other young women who visit him; then, overcome with remorse, he forces himself to eat their flesh and internal organs, throwing up in disgust while doing so, and later feeling shame and disgust at what he has done.
Shot entirely at home with many close-ups of household fixtures, the film has an extreme claustrophobic feel. Shots are frequently jumpy and Murray uses his camera in astonishing ways, at times facing the ceiling or wall and twirling it around to disorient viewers and give them a sense of the unreality that plagues the protagonist. In scenes just after the doll giant has bashed him, the images are chopped up and sliced so they often appear no more than slews of moving grey shades of unidentifiable objects flashing against a black background. Stop-motion animation is used in some scenes, especially in the film’s introductory sequence of images, and when the man finds himself crawling in naught but his underwear along the street. About three-quarters of the way through the film, when the man ventures outside at night, his odyssey becomes delirious and the images flash back and forth and flicker quite a bit; you can just see the man looking unwell and unfocussed but of what dark demons he is suffering from, you can only imagine how intense they are.
There is no dialogue which has the effect of heightening the horror of the film as we never find out why the man acts the way he does or whether the doll giant is for real or a projection of his sick mind. We can only see his need and desire for company and to connect with other humans, and the self-disgust he feels when he has killed someone who offers him love. Instead of dialogue, Murray uses music from different acts including the post-rock band Mogwai: the music varies from dark, cavernous psychedelic post-rock sometimes reminiscent of Godspeed You Black Emperor to ambient and, in the torture scenes, needling chainsaw noise and power electronics. The music generally jells well with the various scenes and heightens suspense and horror appropriately when needed.
There doesn’t appear to be much plot development although at one point in the film the man decapitates the doll tormentor so there is the possibility that he may change for the better, though that will probably take a long time. There is the possibility that all the murders he commits take place in his mind as the house he lives in doesn’t descend into a cesspit of dried carcasses and blood but bedsheets always look crisp, the furniture ends up in good nick and the bathroom is periodically spotless. I can’t imagine the fellow being house-proud if there’s so much real carnage going on so it’s likely he is giving vent to repressed murderous fantasies.
Not a palatable film, that’s true, but Murray has created a visually impressive work and makes a slim and potentially banal plot look substantial and complicated, all on a frail shoe-string budget. He is well worth watching if only to see how he can deploy his talents in something longer and more dependent on a strong story-line.