Cult Caravan: I Am The Ripper
I Am the Ripper is a nutso French action-horror made on a budget of somewhere between zero and one euro, the kind of film that rears its head once or twice on Zone Horror at three in the morning and then disappears without trace. And it’s… well, here’s the guy-in-the-pub plot summary: there’s this bunch of youngsters, right, and they’re throwing a house party, and they’re all drinking and getting off with each other except then someone starts bumping them off, at first one by one in classic slasher style but then like ‘Nah, fuck it, massacre ahoy’ and then one of them has a crazy acrobatic shootout with Death who, even though he beats him in pretty short order, ends up respecting him or whatever and then the guy has to kung-fu the shit out of his dead friends until eventually a bunch of Celtic deities have a big Dragonball Z-style showdown in an extradimensional forest and that one guy’s face falls off. Yeah?
It’s probably a grievous offence against taste and decency to say it’s a good film, but it is surprisingly well made. I mean, not the writing and acting, they’re terrible. And the lighting is awful, and the sound design is obnoxious and intrusive, like a thrash metal episode of Cribs. And there are whole scenes that are obviously only there because the director’s mates wanted to be in the film, and way too many dramatic slow-motion zooms that add nothing except running time. But the fact that the film was made at all, and that it hangs together despite everything it has going against it, makes it hard to stop watching. Your expectations are in the gutter from the first camera-phone-lookin’ moments, and the first time a big action scene kicks off it takes you a minute to realise that it’s actually not that bad – without any budget whatsoever for special effects (or martial arts training) they’re forced to edit the absolute balls out of the thing, and before you know it you’re watching some chunky French bloke dive improbably across a living room while Death himself does a barrel roll over a kitchen counter and comes up holding a shotgun.
And that climactic scene in the forest, oh man. Ignore the fact that it’s obviously shot in a public park – there’s a guy whose head is made of fire. And Death suddenly has six-foot Wolverine claws! And everyone can fly! It’s cheesy and brilliant, the crowning moment of lunacy in a film that only makes sense when it absolutely has to. Here’s the sequence of events: 1) a parliament of gods condemns one of their number for being too handsy with the humans; 2) they fly around for a while flinging energy balls and lightning at each other; 3) we cut back to a metal bar, where a man called Peter cuts Death in two, bums a cigarette, and vomits his skin off. FIVE STARS.
The only thing I’m still unsure about is the title. Given the subject matter, surely they meant to say ‘I am the reaper’? It’s the only part of the film that’s in English (apart from the Robot Chicken-ish stop-motion comedy spy series trailer Peter watches after he stumbles home from the party… yeah, I wasn’t sure how to bring that up earlier) so maybe they just kind of… got it wrong. Or maybe we’re supposed to be reading it in a French accent - I am ze rippehr. In any case, ‘the grim ripper’ isn’t a terribly intimidating moniker, sounding as it does not so much like a scary incarnation of death as Weshtern shlang for curry-assisted post-binge flatulence. And if that sounds like a fun way to spend an evening, then man, have I got a film for you.