Writer-director Thorsten Fleisch made Flesh City over a four-year timespan with virtually no money. Fleisch was able to convince cult-favorite actor Shaun Lawton (who appeared in one of Fleisch’s favorite films, Possession) to make a cameo appearance. Aside from a few stylistic choices, which will be mentioned throughout, these are the only noteworthy elements of Flesh City.
Flesh City starts in black and white, showing apartment buildings; some complete, some nothing but rubble, and then we cut to an overpass. A bunch of hooligans, some dealing drugs, some picking fights with others in line, are waiting to enter a club. In this club, where the film is now in color, Vyren (Christian Serritiello) meets Loquette (Eva Ferox), after Cyril (Shaun Lawton) punches Vyren for being in “his spot” on his game machine. The two have an instant attraction and explore the basement of the club.
Then an MTV-esque program, Magical Nihilism, broadcasting on ‘Retinal Spazm’ interrupts for a music video. After that overlong interlude, Vyern and Loquette find a room with a green laser-esque light and become entranced by the beam. When the laser light hits a transparent cube, a gate opens, and the couple is attacked and kidnapped by a mad scientist.
Vyren manages to escape, though he is down one hand. In its place is a tentacle-esque flesh knot, that appears to have the texture of a squid. Unsure of where to go or how to save his friend, Vyren runs and runs. He eventually runs into satan worshipper Narizza (Maria Hengge). She takes him back to her flat to help him out, but as roommate Laudia (Helena Prince) is recording a video of summoning a demon, Vyren’s mutated appendage goes wild. Vyren leaves rather quickly after that and continues on his quest. Will he find a way to rescue Loquette? Can the mad scientist be stopped before he reaches his end goal of… of… making a full-blown city made of flesh because reasons…? I think. Maybe.
“…the laser light hits a transparent cube, a gate opens, and the couple is attacked and kidnapped by a mad scientist.”
I did find Fleisch’s choice to film all exterior sequences in black and white and the rest of the film in color to be clever. It adds a strangeness to the proceedings and helps establish this movie’s universe as entirely one unto itself. Then there is one scene which works very well and hits its emotional target in a way the rest of the film fails to do. Vyren and Loquette are exploring underneath the club where she finds an old record. She’s spinning it around when Vyren takes out his small knife and places it like a record needle. Spinning it, they play some of the songs from the record. Their joy from doing that, the inventive way they did it, and the simple, non-hyper edited manner in which presented make this all-too-brief moment one of the only few scenes audience can understand. The characters’ emotions, what they are currently after, and how this will achieve those goals are all in plain view.
Sadly, it is the only moment like that. For one, Flesh City often plays out like a series of music videos, via Magical Nihilism, that is interrupted by a plot. I would not be surprised to learn if there is more than 30 minutes worth of music video inserts. It certainly feels that way, even if that is not the actual case. There is no real connection between the story and the stuff being shown on Magical Nihilism, so every time it comes onto the screen, which is a fair number of times, the momentum stops cold for three minutes, sometimes more.
Even worse is how Fleisch edits his movie. It is not that an in-your-face visual style does not suit the material; it does. He adds all these tidbits in post-production making concentrating on the segment headache-inducing endurance test. In one sequence Jodyte (Veronica Jonsson) interviews music sensation Womb Envy (Marilena Netzker), which is entirely superfluous.
“…plays out like a series of music videos…that is interrupted by a plot.”
This commentary on how the public consumes what the media outlets tell them to cannot choose a specific target, thus the vapid dialogue coming from an out of touch celebrity—“I want to establish a new neural entropy in my brain”—gets lost in the not so subliminal imagery, which is distracted by the aspect ratio variation. When everything is fighting for attention, absolutely nothing gets across.
Not helping matters is the acting. Hengge as Narizza pulls off a reasonably good performance, with her frustration with Laudia and concern for Vyren coming through in equal measure; and Lawton has one or two lines in one scene, so he is not in it long enough to judge. Everybody else though does a terrible job. Serritiello is a bore as Vyren, barely able to get above a monotone delivery when he should be speeding past frantic. Ferox is trying, but given how little she has to work with as the character is mostly just a body for Vyren to covet, she flails about helplessly. I am not sure anyone could get imbue this character with the right amount of femme fatale charm and scream queen grit that it calls for.
Fleisch’s avant-garde horror-exploitation mashup is a dreadful bore that confuses visual overload with style and gnarled imagery as substance. Flesh City is a headache to watch, as its visuals are ugly, its criticism scattershot, and its plot indecipherable.
Flesh City (2019) Directed by Thorsten Fleisch. Written by Thorsten Fleisch. Starring Christian Serritiello, Eva Ferox, Shaun Lawton, Maria Hengge, Helena Prince, Veronica Jonsson, Marilena Netzker.
2 out of 10 Mad Scientists