A few months ago, I had the great pleasure of viewing Eric Stanze’s I Spit on Your Corpse, I Piss on Your Grave and it was one of those movie watching experiences where I was so blown away, I had to watch it with the commentary track immediately after. This is how I came to learn about “Scrapbook,” an earlier film made by Stanze, which he says has had major difficulty finding an audience that is willing to sit through the 95-minute feature due to to it being so repulsing. This sounded like a challenge to me and I was eager to watch the film as kind of a dare. On the other hand, I wasn’t really expecting the same kind of high caliber filmmaking I found in I Spit, but instead a goony gross-out flick that was only worth having the first 30 minutes watched. What can I say? I’m a pessimist. But I was also dead wrong.
So I’m sitting here writing this with my a*s on fire because Eric Stanze’s lightning struck twice, ‘cept this time the strike packed with it an even harder and more brilliant whallop. I’m in awe and disgusted at the same time, something I haven’t felt since I began watching really sleazy horror films like “Last House on Dead End Street” and “I Spit on Your Grave” in my early teens. This is the kind of filmmaking that underground horror has been dying for over the recent years, but no one has seemed to be able to do it right…until now.
“Scrapbook” has us endure the captivity of a young woman, Clara, as she’s locked away in the house of a serial killer, Leonard, who documents all of his victims by taking Polaroids of them in various stages of torture, placing the pictures in a scrapbook. The scrapbook is nearly full and Clara is to be Leonard’s last victim before he turns himself in to become a serial killer icon, his scrapbook standing as proof of his murderous legacy.
For nearly the entire 95-minute film, we get to watch Leonard brutalize Clara in about every way imaginable. Scenes of torture and rape are explicit, going far beyond what you would see in other exploitation films. In one scene in particular, after raping Clara’s kicking and screaming body, Leonard stands and pisses on her…all in plain view.
So it’s no wonder why Stanze has said that it’s rare for him to find anyone to put up with “Scrapbook” at its entire length. But, this isn’t some mindless sleaze, cranked out by a bunch of a******s who just like to see women brutalized on screen. The actors in this film bring a tremendous depth to their roles. Tommy Biondo as Leonard is kinda hit and miss, but for the most part he pulls off a fine, depraved psycho. And then there’s Emily Haack as Clara, who seriously turns in the best performance I’ve seen in any independent horror film this year. For the first third of the film, there should be no doubt in your mind that she’s purely terrified, but as the film rolls on, she lets her character get stronger and craftier, until she refuses to let herself be tortured anymore.
“Scrapbook” is well shot, eerily voyeuristic and caked with filth. Dragging its tone deeper into despair is a soundtrack that often sounds like something Throbbing Gristle would do with a lot of feedback and clangy, industrial noises.
With all that I’ve just said, you don’t have to be a genius to figure out that “Scrapbook” definitely isn’t for everyone. There’s no light side to the events in this film…no safety net. This is true terror.