Shock: Diversão Diabólica 1982
Directed by: Jair Correia
Starring: Claudia Alencar, Aldine Muller, Jurandir Abreu
Review by Luisito Joaquín González
They say that slasher films lack originality. Well, this is the third entry from Brazil that I am covering on a Slash above and the second time that I’m going to try and incorporate football (soccer) into the review. So in other words, my writing style suits this type of film, yes?
With Spain winning the last World Cup and two Euros on the bounce in recent years, people have been comparing us to the trophy-laden Brazil side of the early seventies. I thought that I would extend that rivalry into the slasher category for some fun by pitching a genre piece from the key period from each country and seeing who wins the stalk and slash Latino cup. In fact both of the titles that I have chosen could be said to have a tiny bit in common. They missed the peak period release date of 1981 by only a few months and disappeared from video stores for a lengthy period sometime after. Whilst one of them went on to be considered a cult classic, the other, to this day, has remained on the hard to find list. So much so that this is in fact an a SLASH above exclusive…
So without further to do, in the fluorescent yellow corner, from the sway of a carnival on the sunny shores of Rio de Janeiro, we have Shock: Diversão Diabólica!!! Over on the other side of the ring, shrouded in red and yellow, we have the Sangria drenched matador, Mil Gritos Tiene La Noche!!!! I have already posted my thoughts on Gritos and you can find them here. So with that in mind, let’s see who could do ‘slash con salsa’ better back in the glory days of masked killers
A rock band end up abandoned in a house when the transport for their instruments is delayed overnight. They soon learn that they are trapped with a vicious killer that wants to butcher every one of them…
There’s little doubt that the reason that Diabólica has become so obscure is because it has never been subtitled or dubbed for export to global audiences. I must confess that I do not speak fluent Portuguese, but seeing that my mother tongue is Spanish and I’m originally from Huelva (right beside the Portugal border), I could understand more of the speech than perhaps someone that only knows English would. The languages are similar enough for me to focus and get an idea of the dialogue and I found that the plot was fairly easy to follow.
Whereas Mil Gritos was proud to be an out and out dupe of its American forefathers, it could be said that Diabólica feels a lot more European in its approach. It’s a darker feature in both its cinematography and tone and although there are obvious nods to Friday the 13th, one could also say that they could be to Mario Bava’s Bay of Blood, which was of course the source code for the Jason franchise. The beautiful Aldine Muller, who is of Italian and Portuguese heritage, provides the T&A in a sex scene that is far more gratuitous than anything from the USA at the time; and the killer is closer to the Giallo style of murderer than that of the stalk and slash category.
Another way that this feels more in touch with its Euro partners is in the fact that its not just a pure exploitation picture and it actually has something of a message to convey. I can’t print too much without giving away the crux of the mystery, which is the best thing about the feature, but there’s an interesting idea for a motive behind the massacre. At one point whilst the maniac is waiting for his victims – they have locked themselves in a room upstairs in the house – we see him sit down and make a sandwich like he’s taking a break. It gives us the impression that he is not on a kill spree due to a lust for murder or revenge, but rather as if its a task that he has been given, or a ‘piece of work’ from an employer. Keeping this in mind, the final scene leaves us with a lot more to ponder and it’s an unique and ambiguous conclusion. Brazil was an interesting place politically back in those times and I’m confident that the plan was to offer more than a straight up slasher film. This is proven by the wide range of topics covered in the conversation of the characters that includes amongst other things: freedom, positivity and the roles of both human genders in society.
Jair Correia’s screenplay also experiments with the have sex and die rule and somewhat has fun with it. One bunny rejects her boyfriend the usual way and I wrote the note, ‘archetypal final girl.’ Then suddenly she changes her tune and begins to seduce him (he has by now smoked a joint and passed out) and soon after that, she gets viciously killed. It is the horror parts in Diabólica though that prevent the film from scoring many points. The bogeyman is smart and scary in equal measure and he does a great job of setting up one of the victims so that his friends believe that he is the assailant. They then tie him up alone in a basement, which leaves him free to be slaughtered by the real assassin. He also attempts to torment his prey by continually banging a drum-kit randomly outside the place that they have chosen to barricade themselves within. All this is wasted though because whenever he catches up with one of them, the kill scenes are anaemic and monotonous. There’s only so much that can be done with strangulation as the main MO and despite the director trying his hardest to make things interesting – by using effects such as flashing lights and slow motion – the lack of blood is a real negative.
It can be argued that perhaps Correia was attempting to build a claustrophobic atmosphere, but I feel that keeping all the characters in one room for the majority of the runtime made the movie seem dull and stagnated. You can have million dollar dialogue and be successful in a drama film, but in a slasher there needs to be more action. Here, we didn’t even see one chase sequence! After probably the most flat and uninspiring opening credits that I have ever seen, we get 20+ minutes filled with shots of an awful rock band and a gang of fashion nightmares dancing. By the time that the psychopath finally turns up, it’s most definitely too little too late.
Shock Diversão Diabólica is not a movie that’s devoid of credit, but it is not particularly worth tracking down. Although we learn later why we see the killer only from his shiny boots, we perhaps didn’t need forty-seven repetitive shots of them. Put it this way, there’s a reason as to why this one has remained in its country of birth exclusively and I can’t see any distributors rushing to re-release it.
So a resounding victory for La Furia Roja then, with the Grindhouse classic, Mil Gritos Tiene La Noche competently destroying this snoozy challenger. I just hope that there’s a similar result in next year’s World Cup for us 😉 Somehow though, that seems harder to imagine.
If you’re going to see a Brazilian slasher, stick with Ritual of Death, which is the best of them by a mile
Final Girl: √√