Sixteen Tongues (2002)
Starring Jane Chase, Crawford James, Alice Liu
Directed by Scooter MacCrae
It was way back in 94’ when Scooter McCrae unleashed his offbeat zombie film Shatter Dead upon the horror scene. Although shot on video, and containing some artsy pornographic imagery that kind of turned me off (chubby lesbian angels are an acquired taste), the film was filled with a great absurd sense of humor, filled with over the top violence, and was most definitely an innovative approach to the zombie film. Nine years later Mr. McCrae has returned with a new film, this time bringing us a cyberpunk story complete with cyborg assassins with eyelid clitoris modifications, and psychotic cops with tongue skin grafts.
Alec, a computer hacker, lives with her girlfriend Jenny, a cyborg assassin in a rundown hotel somewhere in the "post-human" future. Jenny was built with the unique but ultimately troubling addition of clitorises underneath her eyelids. She always has the intense desire to kill, but the kill urge is offset by the orgasms she receives whenever she blinks. Alec spends most of her time sleeping, or jacking herself into the net to discover the identity of the man who killed her brother years before. When she isn’t searching for the killer she’s spying on Jenny, who prowls the hotel for sex, or a possible victim.
Somewhere in the hotel is hidden a renegade cop. An almost Frankenstein monster made up with skin grafts from the tongues of other police who were slaughtered in a battle along side him. The skin grafts saved his life, and give him the odd side effect of tasting everything that comes into contact with his flesh (he’s grown a taste for wearing leather). Another unfortunate side effect of the skin grafts is the addition of voices in his head, and propensity for extreme violent and perverse behavior when it comes to interrogations. In one interrogation he dresses the suspect like a gimp, forces him to perform fellatio on him, and then blasts him in the head point blank. Another squirm inducing scene has him pulling a suspects tooth out with pliers.
Unwittingly Jenny makes friends with him, not knowing how completely insane and dangerous he is. Meanwhile Alec is close to finding the identity of her brothers killer, but little does she know that he is living in the same building as her, and soon all three of their paths will come together violently.
Where Shatter Dead was one characters journey through many locations, all of the action in Sixteen Tongues takes place in the closed confines of a hotel. In the future the presence of pornography suffocates everything, from flyers and pages pasted to every open wall space, to the eternally blasting television which broadcasts nothing but porn ads until you pay to turn off the television with your credit card. Mr. McCrae’s new film has a much more controlled sense of atmosphere with the limited locations, and it benefits the small personal cyberpunk tale. In the hallways of the hotel there is no escape from the human refuse which litters the floors, begging for money or sexual favors.
The dialogue is extremely well written, ranging from poetic to extremely crude and funny. The film does contain a lot of sexual situations, but this time I didn’t think it caused any harm, since believe it or not it did add depth to the characters. Sadly, although Mr. McCrae has vision and creativity, the things he lacks in Sixteen Tongues are budget and strong actors. Sometimes his writing is just too heavy for the amateur actors, and it’s a shame when a good line isn’t handled appropriately. The digital video, and minimal art department pull you out of the story occasionally, but doesn’t overtake the experience. The budget on this film is non-existent, and it shows, but Sixteen Tongues makes up for it with creativity, great characters, sharp dialogue, and a wicked dark sense of humor.
3 out of 5
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