What can you expect of a movie that begins with a couple's holiday snaps?

That's exactly how the optimistically-titled Il Bosco 1 begins. Ominous horror movie music suddenly turns into strumming mandolins, and we see Polaroids of two young lovers touring Venice. Then the ominous music returns, alternating with more shots of Venice and more cheesy Italian music. Granted, holiday pictures are capable of inspiring true horror, but it's usually not the kind of horror audiences pay to see.

It seems the next stop on the couple's itinerary is a Northern Italian village populated by undead fiends. Chief among them is a vampire woman with a retractable claw in her vagina. She uses this appendage to castrate the men she seduces (she also gets her kicks from immersing her hand in a bucket of maggots. There's probably a newsgroup about this somewhere). One of her past victims is still around somewhere, shambling through the woods as a zombie (albeit a soprano zombie). Added to the attractions is a tracheotomized horror writer, in classic 1920's motorcycle garb, who speaks with the aid of a machine in his throat. Oh, the lengths to which these towns will go for that extra star in the Michelin Guide...

Our unsuspecting couple wanders into this mess. No sooner do they arrive when the boyfriend is chased through a cemetery by a three-foot-tall NOTHING. You'll understand what I mean when you see it... or rather, when you DON'T see it. It's just another pointless use of the Steadicam. Sam Raimi, what have you wrought?!

Enter the writer, who tells the couple he has something he must show them. He takes them absolutely nowhere to tell them a story about their possible future. At this point the film turns into


...we see the boyfriend stab the girlfriend to death on the beach. He goes home, and she rises as a bloody zombie. Once at home, the boyfriend finds sand pouring from his taps and blood running down the walls; while in the closet, his dead girlfriend has turned into a reject from Lamberto Bava's Demoni. This last bit, by the way, is the scene illustrated on the back of the video box.

So what's the deal here? Is this footage from some different movie? Maybe these were scenes shot for an earlier draft of the story? Or to pad out the movie after it was finished? Or is this another in a seemingly endless series of mindless European horror movies?

(That was a rhetorical question)

On we stumble: appendage-woman shows up, and leads our couple to a deserted house in the woods -- the woods being il bosco of the title (U.S. viewers may have thought it referred to chocolate milk). Once they arrive, night falls -- instantly. The girl goes for the usual unmotivated walk in strange woods in total darkness. While she is gone, the boyfriend and appendage-woman get to know each other. Actually, it's not easy to tell exactly what is going on here: both actors speak English with such a heavy Italian accent that they are incomprehensible.

Somewhere along the line, the boyfriend decides to feed a handful of cocaine to the bucket of maggot-infested waste (remember the bucket?). Now, I'm not acquainted with drug culture, but even I get the feeling that cocaine is just too expensive to pour into a wormy pot o' dung... am I correct? Anyway, the pot of stool doesn't like the coke and splashes back up into the boyfriend's face. There's probably a newsgroup about this somewhere.

In the meantime, the girlfriend has discovered a grimy stone with some sort of inscription on it. She calls for her boyfriend, whose face is still speckled with crap. The boyfriend is intrigued by the inscription, so he does what you'd expect him to do from his behavior so far: he sets fire to the rock, which begins to bleed.

Is everybody still with me?

(I didn't think so. I'm lost myself, at this point. I hope everyone realizes why I'm bothering with all this. It's to save any unfortunate soul, who has even the least curiosity about this movie, from actually watching it. Hang in there: the worst is yet to come.)

When last we saw our hero and heroine (I'm tempted to say hero and heroin, but the drugs went into the slime a few scenes back), they were admiring a burning rock. After this, the boyfriend gets upset and threatens to dump out the pot of glop. Appendage-woman begs him not to, but her words fall on deaf ears (mine, too: she seems to say something like, "No! Not next to the blargle-margle grimble mumble!" I don't speak Italglish).

Evidently glop-dumping really was the wrong thing to do, because immediately after, in a totally different part of the old deserted house, appendage-woman's previous victim comes back as a crusty zombie.

Back to our hapless couple... boyfriend has been feeling sick ever since the sewage hit him in the face (and I'm sure the audience is feeling the same). As he lies writhing and vomiting on the floor, a cuckoo clock with a sword for a hand starts spinning out of control... and out of the cuckoo's trap door comes a pathetic blood-spitting paper-maché head. Hey, it's a pretty good a metaphor for the whole movie so far, but otherwise it's just stupid.

About this time, the castrato zombie arrives. Boy and girl subdue it and tie it with convenient chains to a convenient wagon wheel. As if this wasn't bad enough, much to the girlfriend's horror her sweetie is bein' ZOMMMMMBIFIED. I dare anyone who's suffered through the movie this far to watch his transformation without bursting into uncontrollable laughter.

Boyfriend staggers zombily into the clutches of appendage-woman, who's sprouted fangs and eyebrow-ridges. Suddenly, the movie goes from an Evil Dead II rip-off to a Chinese Ghost Story rip-off, as the boyfriend is attacked by killer mutant tree-roots from Hell.

As he lies writhing, enter the writer, with an ax. He cuts the boyfriend loose to shamble off into the darkness, and then turns to confront appendage-woman. In a plot-twist that will interest nobody, appendage-woman reveals that she, the ancient vampire-monster, is actually the writer's daughter. Enh. The writer cuts off her appendage with the ax. Furious, the artist formerly known as appendage-woman jumps up from the ground (with a severe case of bosco-butt, tsk, tsk!) and breaks the writer's neck. She then grows outlandish pop-eyes, like a rejected sketch for Hammer Films' The Reptile... and if the boyfriend's transformation didn't make you laugh your ass off, this sure as hell will.

The boyfriend stumbles around some more before stopping to rest, arranging his hands conspicuously on a boulder. Out pops the castrato zombie (didn't I mention he'd broken free? I must have forgotten in all the excitement). In one of the least convincing scenes of a very shoddy movie, the zombie cuts off the boyfriend's hands with a rock. It's a very sharp rock, I guess.

The boyfriend runs back to bleed on the girl a little, after which she runs into the cellars of the old house, possibly looking for a way out of the movie. What she finds, through the magic of poor scripting, is the zombie from outside hiding in an alcove. She runs away, leaving the zombie to decapitate the boyfriend with that old wooden wagon wheel... It's a very sharp wagon wheel, I guess.

The zombie shambles after the girl, wielding her boyfriend's head (heck, he's a castrato -- it's the only head he's ever gonna get). Soon he's joined in his pursuit by the writer's re-animated corpse. They corner her back in the old house, where the zombie attacks her with fishing tackle. Hey, why not? It makes as much sense as anything so far.

Just when all seems lost, the girl climbs up a cabinet and discovers a convenient chainsaw! She chops up the writer, and then uses a disgusting, fingerprint-smeared makeup mirror from her knapsack to direct the rays of the rising sun into the face of the zombie. The monsters -- and her boyfriend's head -- explode. The girl, followed by the ever-present Steadicam -- POV shots of Nothing -- runs endlessly through the woods before collapsing in a clearing. Appendageless-woman, who had been forgotten until now, looks up at the camera and goes "Snarl, snarl" -- and the movie ends.

The rumors are true. Andreas Marfori, the director of this bucket of maggots, actually got work afterwards. He did Desperate Crimes, starring Traci Lords and Denise Crosby, and Energy!!, starring the late Timothy Leary, in 1993. This should dispel any lingering doubts: God is dead and there is no justice in the world.

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