Ghosts of Sodom, The | Varied Celluloid

Ghosts of Sodom, The

Posted by Josh Samford On October - 31 - 2010



The Plot: A group of Italian teens traveling through the backwoods of France stumble upon an old abandoned villa where they decide to hold up for the night after becoming lost on the roads. Everything seems fine at first, as the group enjoys the food and wine that was left out for them. After the first night the group heads back out onto the roads but soon finds that they’re traveling in circles and end up right back at the villa. Thinking they’ll stay just one more night, they head inside but soon find that many of them are having visions. You see, this is no regular villa. This is a home of debauchery that was used by the SS during the World War II occupation by the nazi party, so that they could stage their wild orgy parties for top SS officials. Apparently our teens are actually seeing the ghosts of these dead nazis. What could they want and will they run off our teens… or even worse, kill them all?




The Review
Going through Lucio Fulci’s later works can almost always land you a guaranteed failure. Truthfully, his last notable film would arguably be The New York Ripper which was released in 1982, so you have an entire decade’s worth of material between that film and his inevitable retirement. Going through these progressively lower budget affairs can be rather damaging to your opinion of the filmmaker, if you had a rather high regard for his work in the first place that is. Without the visual properties that made so much of his work exceptional, you’re left with a rather plain horror movie without any kind of gusto. After films such as Touch of Death and The House of Clocks, I had put my exploration of Fulci’s later films on the backburner. After reviewing and discovering the very good Door Into Silence, I decided it was time to finish off my ventures into this area of my hero’s career. What can one really say other than, you never know how great a filmmaker can be until you see him reach his very bottom. While I won’t go so far as to say that The Ghosts of Sodom AKA: Sodoma’s Ghost is the very bottom of Lucio Fulci’s career, it shows a tremendous lack of ingenuity on the part of the director and is a clear example of him stepping out with the wrong foot forward.

The Ghosts of Sodom is what I’ll continue to refer to this movie as throughout the course of this review, despite the DVD packaging calling it Sodoma’s Ghost, mainly for nostalgia reasons. When I would look through various bootleg catalogs back in the day and when I would read reviews for the film in the pre-DVD age, Ghosts of Sodom seemed to be the consensus title for the film and seems to be a better and more direct translation. The movie in question is probably best known to those who have searched out Fulci’s epic gorefest (but relatively poor in quality, as it was a mish-mash of several later films) A Cat in the Brain. There is a sequence late in that movie where Lucio Fulci (playing himself) stumbles upon a vision of a nightmarish nazi orgy that was lifted directly from The Ghosts of Sodom and shown out of context. It was certainly the first experience I ever had with the film and I am sure it is the case for several others out there. Of these two films, I would have to venture a guess and say that A Cat in the Brain is the more popular film without question, and I think there is a valid reason behind that. Although A Cat in the Brain may be a poor collection of bits and pieces ripped directly from Fulci’s more recent films at the time, at the very least it is fun and incredibly campy. Even at its worst it is still so goofy that you can actually have fun at its expense. Ghosts of Sodom unfortunately breaks one of the golden rules set forth for any horror movie: it is boring.

Don’t get me wrong, things do happen in Ghosts of Sodom. This isn’t a boring feature in the conventional sense, because it does manage to hold your attention for the most part. The plot is very direct and there’s no excess subplots to fill up room and make it a convoluted mess or anything of that sort. With this very straightforward narrative, the movie manages to pander entirely to audience expectations at every given opportunity. If you are an astute viewer and you want to try and guess what every little twist is that the movie might throws in your direction, I have no doubts that you’ll be able to do it with this movie. The Ghosts of Sodom is what you would probably get if you completely neutered Night of the Demons and took away any chance for the filmmakers to actually use their imagination. While I do think that Fulci is a filmmaker who did great things without gore, his best work usually came with moderate budgets during a time before television killed off the Italian film community. Dealing with a smaller budget, less experienced crews and likely facing new time constraints we see Fulci at his most banal with this film. Although it has its moments (which I’ll get to shortly), it bows to every genre film cliche that you can dig up and doesn’t bring enough wild violence or new ideas to the table in order to make the project more appealing for the fans.

Amongst the things that Ghosts of Sodom tends to get right, I have to commend Fulci for the visual style of the film. Despite the fact that the DVD transfer looks like a straight VHS duplication and despite the fact that the movie itself looks like it was shot on home video grade cam-recorders, Fulci manages to get some interesting visual flourishes throughout. The opening Nazi orgy sequence is definitely one such sequence. There is a nice tracking sequence throughout that shows off the depravity at hand in all of its glorious detail, but Fulci really manages to do a lot with the frame during these moments. He then follows it up with some hypnotic editing that shows off the mass drug use during this party where apparently all of these nazi soldiers are in the midst of having an overdose. Their violent drug induced shivering is matched by the violent editing which splices in footage of bombers dropping explosives. This all goes down while we watch a nazi prepare to shoot a a cue ball directly into the crotch of some unlucky woman on the pool table. The sequence, although base, is probably the best looking sequence throughout the entire movie. Fulci does spruce up the film throughout with some imaginative ideas. Another favorite of mine shows a conversation between two characters where the camera focuses on the man talking and then pans over to the right where we can see the female that he is conversing with and she speaks her lines directly in flow of the camera movement. The sequence is very nicely done and although the movie may look terrible, I get the feeling that Fulci did the best with what he had.


The Conclusion
As far as gore goes, if you’re expecting much then this movie will utterly disappoint you. The violence is generally fairly tame, aside from a few rotten ghost-bodies (including the body of the lovely Zora Kerova of Cannibal Ferox fame!), but its nothing worth writing home about. Then there’s that ending… which simply defines “anti-ending”. I could write up another entire paragraph about how cheap, low and ridiculous the ending to this movie is but I think my negative comments have already kicked it in the dirt. Chances are if you’re a decent horror fan, you have seen most of what The Ghosts of Sodom can offer you. However, if you are a big fan of Lucio Fulci’s, then you’ll probably track this one down no matter what I say. I give the movie a two out of five. Worth seeing if you’re a Fulci completest, but that’s about it!



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