wed 17/04/2024

DVD: Santa Sangre | reviews, news & interviews

DVD: Santa Sangre

DVD: Santa Sangre

Mother knows best in an Oedipal horror film flecked with mordant humour

Dressed to kill, mother and son united

Possessed by the spirit of his dead mother, a young man is driven to murder women who excite him sexually. Sound familiar? Director Alejandro Jodorowsky (El Topo) acknowledges his debt to Hitchcock by placing the mother in a rocking chair; there’s even a shower scene, yet Santa Sangre is far from being a remake of Psycho. First released in 1989, this ravishing visual feast is far weirder and more wonderful than that.

Fenix (Jodorowsky’s handsome son Axel) is confined to a mental hospital. He thinks he’s a bird and, perched naked on a tree trunk, screeches mournfully. Then, in flashback, we witness the traumatic childhood event that led to his breakdown. The Circo del Gringo has pitched its tent in a Mexican town. Fenix (Jodorowsky’s younger son Adan) is the son of Orgo, the knife thrower (Guy Stockwell) and hire-wire acrobat, Concha (Blanca Guerra). Concha catches her husband in flagrante with a tattooed seductress (pictured right) and tosses sulphuric acid over his crotch. He retaliates by slicing off her arms and slitting his own throat, leaving Fenix an orphan – save for the mother inside his head.

Back to hospital where, on hearing Concha calling him, Fenix escapes through the window to join her – literally. Wearing long red nails, his hands emerge from her sleeves to do her bidding – performing a supple dance and mesmerising piano duet. But these exquisite hands have also learned to throw knives and, at Concha’s command, they gorily dispatch one hapless victim after another.

These are the bare bones of an Oedipal story that, embellished with wild ideas and beautifully observed details, is a surreal masterpiece. While Fenix battles his demons, a cast of misfits – prostitutes, pimps, clowns, transvestites, boys with Down’s syndrome, a deaf-mute girl, dwarf, giant and trans-sexual wrestler – totter through life to the abrasive gaiety of hurdy gurdys and mariachi bands. Fellini meets Freud in a rite of passage from childhood to adult sexuality, and from psychosis to sanity.

Watch the trailer for Santa Sangre


An Oedipal story that, embellished with wild ideas and beautifully observed details, is a surreal masterpiece


Editor Rating: 
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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