Michael Lerner (looking uncannily like Roger Ebert) is a clumsy eye clinic intern under the sway of his psychic, psychotically vindictive mother (Zelda Rubinstein, the diminutive spiritualist from Poltergeist). "All the e... more »yes in the city will be ours," Mom commands, declaring war on the orbs of humanity. Hypnotized by swirling spirals and screechy bursts of electronic wails, the dutiful son packs up his surgical tool set and goes out collecting. Suddenly we pull back to find ourselves staring at the nervous reactions of a matinee movie crowd watching our same horror flick (though it's entitled "Mommy"). The audience watches Lerner carving skulls onscreen (in a darkened movie theater, of all places) while a killer obsessed with the movie unleashes his own rampage on the unsuspecting patrons. Soon it becomes clear that the parallel plots lock together in sinister synchronization. It's one of the most original uses of the movie-within-a-movie device, and an ingenious avenue for exploring the hypnotic power of cinema. Director Bigas Luna (Jamón Jamón) makes the two killers symbiotic blood brothers, the "real" killer feeding off his cinematic inspiration. It's often more cerebral than scary, and the home video experience unfortunately robs the film of its final layer (this movie within a movie was really meant to be seen by moviegoers). But it's smartly designed and stylishly directed, and Luna delivers the horror movie goods--plenty of suspense, buckets of blood, and more gory ocular excavations than eye-obsessed Lucio Fulci managed in his entire career. --Sean Axmaker« less
"This underrated horror flick from 1986 should be seen by any movie fan intrigued by the hypnotic nature of film. The movie within a movie theme is taken to an ad nauseum degree in a hallucinogenic rollercoaster of gore and killings. There's a mad killer tearing eyeballs out of people watching a movie ("The Lost World") in a movie theater which in turn is being watched by an audience watching that movie in a movie theater which in turn we are watching (unfortunately at home and not in a movie theater)--what a mind trip that would have been!...and it doesn't even end there! It's a unique thriller which takes a theme from "Demons", but increases it ten-fold. This is a stunning widescreen 2.35:1 transfer....the old P&S VHS release really destroyed the whole design of the film....you need the entire panavison frame to get the complete effect that this is a film about film. Bizarre, gory, hypnotic....but most of all clever....check this one out...and stay for the end credits!"
Eyes Will Roll!!!
Tom | Nashville | 10/26/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"A meditation on the interrelationship between spectator and display, this astonishing film covers the same territory (although in a different way) as Psycho, Rear Window, and Peeping Tom as tissues of reality and reference shift and change like cornea transplants. What is Real, what is illusion, and in the final analysis, does it matter?Throughout the film the address of the eye is undercut by other sensory cues, most memorably in the scene when audio surround information suddenly reframes our "reality" as part of a movie in a movie - a moment which somehow relaxes our tension and increases it at the same time. I'm reminded here of the astonishing scene in Fritz Lang's 1000 Eyes of Dr. Mabuse when the audience discovers an entire frame of reference beyond the surface reality it had assumed was in place. The brilliant climax of the film predates the one in Woody Allen's Manhattan Murder Mystery as cinema becomes real becomes cinema - chinese box fashion. As a vitally important experiment in film narrative technique, Anguish is required viewing for anyone who loves the movies.The DVD is wonderful, but this is a film which for best effect should be seen in a theatre (as Videodrome should really be seen on video).I had the GREAT good-fortune to see this film in such a theatre. A small twin theatre in my town was playing both Anguish and Alien Nation (Imagine the fun the box office cashier had answering the phone "Tonight we have Anguish and Alienation!"). The theatre manager must have been the spiritual brother of William Castle because during the midnight show I attended, audience members (who were in on the joke) turned the movie in the movie into a movie in a movie in a movie in a theatre. On the screen, The Lost World was playing to an audience, before the screen, in The Mommy, Michael Lerner was menacing the heroine, before the screen in Anguish, the unnamed psychopath was menacing the heroine, before the screen an audience member was holding another audience member hostage while uniformed (costumed) policeman were invading not only both theatres in The Movie, but the actual theatre where I sat!!!!!Memorable, disturbing, brilliant, freakish. See it. Your eye will shake your hand!"
Very very interesting and clever!
skipmccoy | Los Angeles, CA USA | 09/14/2001
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Great little cult film about a movie within a movie(which you don't find out about until 20 minutes in-very cool). Both Michael Lerner(BARTON FINK, SAFE MEN) and Zelda Rubinstein are effectively creepy in the movie that is being viewed by the theater which is taken hostage(sort of). My strongest suggestion for those who've seen the movie and are presenting it to their friends for the first time is to NOT tell them what it's about. Just say that it's better if they just watch and see."
T. Goad | 05/08/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I have given this film a 5 star rating, even though I have not seen the upcoming dvd release. I am also aware that this very special film is not for everyone. But unless the DVD is incrediby botched, my 5 stars stand proudly.
It's difficult to review this film because I don't want to spoil the experience of watching such a slippery, convoluted experiment in cinematic narrative. Let me just say that this film's narrative structure is highly unusual, and the frequent sudden shifts of reference could cause a bit of vertigo in the viewer as they try to figure out just what the heck is going on, only to have their hypothisis shattered (or at least tightly twisted) a few minutes later. This twisting, shifting narrative is fascinating to me, even though others may find it annoying. It's like living in a chinese box puzzle.
Perhaps I am especially partial to the film because I saw it in its original theatrical release. The theatre in which I watched it apparently had a very cool manager. During the last scenes of the film, when all the temporal and spatial references collapse, this theatre staged yet another plot twist by presenting yet another twist to the plot, enacted by a live "cast", sort of like the Rocky Horror Picture Show. The effect was startling and disorienting.
SPOILER ALERT!!!! Do not read any farther if you haven't seen the film before.
Imagine This: There is a movie, a silent movie, playing on a theatre screen. In the theatre, there is a murderer holding a person hostage in front of the screen, but this, too, is a movie . . . and in the theatre in which it is playing, there is a murderer holding a person hostage in front of the screen . . . but this, too, is a movie . . . and in thetheatre in which it is playing there is a murderer holding a person hostage in front of the screen . . . but this, too, is a movie . . . and in the theatre in which it is playing -- the theatre where YOU are sitting . . . there is a murderer holding a hostage in front of the screen. Yes, this murderer and his hostage are in the theatre with you, and the hostage was sitting on the same row you are sitting on. Then the police break in to all four theatres (yes, even the one where you are sitting) and shots are fired, and the movie ends. On the screen is the interior of Theatre number 3, and the credits unfold on that screen, as people in the MOVIE begin to file out of the theatre where they were sitting, amd apparently somehow find themselves in the theatre where You are sitting, because people are also exiting from THIS theatre.
Now, of course, unless you really work on it, the live show in the theatre where you are sitting, will not happen. Police will probably not break down your door and shoot the villian holding a friend of yours hostage in front of your tv, but when you actually watch ANGUISH, why not imagine this 4th theatre, this is actually your TV room, and that this fourth layer of the plot is actually taking place in your home.
PS: As long as we're spilling spoilers, let me invite you to be sure you have your surrounds run up all the way when watching the film. There is an extremely disorienting disconnect between layers early in the movie, as we assume we are watching one movie, but then begin to hear conversation and "popcorn crunching" all about us. Then the image is reframed and you realize that you have been watching a movie within a movie.
Watch With: The 1,000 Eyes of Dr. Mabuse, Memento, Identity, The Tingler, and any film that has an experimental narrative structure, such as Last Year at Marienbad, Intolerance, Time Code, etc.
A Movie Worth Experiencing
IJustDiedAlive | Northern CA, USA | 07/10/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"They sure did a great job at cleaning up the picture and sound for this 1986 flick. Zelda Rubinstein is a trip in this movie. Well the movie itself is quite a trip. This movie deserves more credit than what it received. You can really tell that alot of effort and thought went into making this movie. So as a viewer and customer of the dvd I can appreciate that. You should try too."