Sep 13, 2008
The Plot: Angela is a college art student currently working on her final thesis along with her professor. The subject is going to be on violence in the media and it’s correlation on us the viewing audience. During her search for media for the subject, she asks her professor to help her track down some clips that were maybe too violent for television or banned from airing since he has access to the video vault found on campus. In the same day she tracks down Chema, a horror geek who has an affection for strange pornography and real death footage. After some persuading from Angela, Chema takes her back to his house and they watch a Faces of Death-esque video. While this goes on, the proffessor sneaks into the video vault and finds the pornography section where the violent videos are hidden. When scared by a noise he grabs the first one available and runs off to watch it. The next day Angela finds her professor in the viewing room… dead. He had an asthma attack while watching whatever is on this tape, and Angela knows it. When she takes it to Chema and the two watch it, they find just what killed the professor. The video shows a girl strapped to a chair and being beaten at first, then a gun is put to her head and she is shot. After that, she is dismembered with a chainsaw and all of it is real. Angela is disturbed, but Chema immediately starts analyzing the video and finds the type of camera it had to be shot on – and from here, the two set out to find just who killed this girl and how many others might have suffered a similar fate.

The Review: Thesis is a film I have heard of for a very long time but have not seen until now, going back years now. Along with Day of the Beast, these films made a pretty large impact on the horror scene in the mid nineties but with Thesis getting much more praise and popularity. That’s because Day of the Beast, although generally considered a fine film is a bit less accessible for all audiences. Thesis however mixes that perfect combination of horror and suspense, along with social commentary. Thesis is a bit of an open book, it invites the audience inside and gives them their story but ultimately asks them to form their opinion on the message that the film ultimately delivers. I personally have never seen as much in these films that turn their social microscope back on the audience in order to get them to reflect upon why they would dare seek out such a violent movie or that sort of thing. This topic in my mind has already been fully captured many times over by other horror filmmakers with much the same vision. The answer in my mind has always been that humanity no matter what will seek out the dark and disturbing, because death is as much a part of life as love or compassion. We know it’s there and like Angela in the movie, who tries to convince herself that she hates these dark and morbid things – her curiosity compels her to watch these snuff tapes. The desensitization of mankind can go as far as humanity wants to take it, but as long as there are still children, people of faith or sheltered folks who don’t care to see these things – mainstream society on the whole will always have their limits. I am personally thankful for that, as someone who has scoured imageboards for hours in my time and watched just about every gory horror I can get my hands on – it’s nice to know society can’t be as crazy as I am! My use of the Angela peering through her fingers to watch the snuff videos sequence illustrates my point further though, Thesis although it is a film made by a filmmaker who I may or may not have a differing of opinion with on this subject – you are allowed to draw your own conclusions and I think that may be the greatest thing about it.

Although shot on an obvious lower budget, Thesis is still very stylish and well made movie in all manners. Truthfully, as far as atmosphere goes I was at times often reminded of the Japanese horror scene that at the time of creation did not even exist yet. Particularly the films of Kiyoshi Kurosawa who I was times heavily reminded of. Kurosawa usually focuses more on the supernatural with these tales of suspense, but Thesis has that same air of mystery that his films so often do have. Not to mention the somewhat washed out cinematography that brings back memories of Cure and Doppleganger (Kurosawa films). Thesis stands out though, as it obviously seems more inspired by classic horrors and the work of Hitchcock. Following in the less is more vein, in refusing to show much of the atrocities committed on tape and blinding you only with brief visions of the nightmares in video. The goriest sites are so zoomed in as to not fully make out any details or are partially blocked from the viewer so that they never get the full picture. Although I will say it is the “less fun” way of doing things for us gorehounds out there – but for creating a more violent and visceral assault – the tactic works. The sharp cries of the beaten victim, the nonstop screaming and pleading – then the offscreen brutal smacks of the tortured souls being beaten and abused. Thesis, although not being an excessively gory film itself makes up for it with the violence it rages on the viewer. There were moments where even I was made to feel uncomfortable in Thesis, and I think that’s as complimentary a thing as I can say about any horror film, as few seem to make me feel that way these days. That sounds like I’m bragging, but I’m really not. In the end, this isn’t a movie with the intention of simply scaring you or unnerving you – although it may very well do those things. The main intention is to tell a nailbiting story and to make the audience think about the nature of cinematic violence and just how far we may go with it; much the way Angela’s thesis was to do. In the end, this film turns into that thesis and although not an entirely judgmental film it has a clear message to the viewer and simply asks them to put their cinematic experience in perspective.

Thesis is a great film, and I highly recommend it to those who find these concepts interesting. All you have to do to get me to watch anything is to say it has to do with a Snuff mystery – as I find the subject terribly interesting. If you’re much the same way I think you’ll enjoy it as well. In some ways I think the film could have been a bit more impactful on the viewer, a little tougher – but it is what it as and I think it did a great job. The cast did a terrific job in their parts, and although I think the horror movie focused Chema is a bit of a widely drawn characteristic of what us horror geeks truly are – I can forgive that since he wears a Cannibal Holocaust shirt during the course of the picture! Such a move makes me think that maybe director Alejandro Amenábar or at least someone in the cast was a big horror film fan! I give it a four out of five, it’s a stylish thriller with a message and meaning. Can’t ask for much more than that!