Review by Derrick Carter
Running Time: 1 hour 45 minutes
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Directed by: Conan Le Cilaire
Written by: Alan Black
Starring: Michael Carr
I can tell you that I definitely wasn’t walking into this one blind. Throughout the years, I’ve heard about FACES OF DEATH in various horror podcasts as well as videos about Shocksploitation cinema. There’s a valid reason for that, because FACES OF DEATH is about as controversial as you can get. Billed as a documentary about the nature of death and our own mortality, FACES OF DEATH is a flimsy excuse to string together bits of footage revolving around murder, executions, animal cruelty and horrifying accidents. It’s the ultimate dare movie that teenagers or pre-teens brag about to their friends in order to feel tough or cool. It’s the 1970’s equivalent of HUMAN CENTIPEDE (though for the record I find HUMAN CENTIPEDE to be miles more entertaining than this garbage). In good hands with solid intentions, FACES OF DEATH could have very well been a compelling documentary for the ages. Instead, the filmmakers opt for the cheap and easy route which is exploitation at its most grueling. Seeing as this entire film was made and remains in pretty poor taste, this will probably be the shortest review that I ever write on this website.
As mentioned before, FACES OF DEATH boasts to have actual footage of people dying. This is only about 10% right as there is news footage of accidents and a far glimpse of someone jumping from a building. The real clips used are the sort of thing that Jake Gyllenhaal’s character was capturing in NIGHTCRAWLER. The rest of the film uses stock footage including the process at a slaughterhouse, an autopsy procedure, some well-preserved Mexican mummies and a dog fight (that’s stomach-churning to say the very least). The remainder of the footage is total faked bullshit masquerading as legit footage when it’s clearly (and poorly) faked. These bits include a couple of animal attacks (conveniently shot with camera work that’s just shaky enough that it’s hard to make out precisely what’s happening) and a ridiculously inept electric chair scene (which an actor later explained in specific detail how it was constructed). Topics (a.k.a. excuses) in FACES OF DEATH range from executions to assassinations to animal attacks to suicide to natural disasters to an obviously staged cannibalistic cult orgy. These are all extreme and in poor taste, but the film really sinks to sickening levels when it exploits wartime footage as well as starving kids in Africa.
I try to keep things semi-professional on this website and refrain from insulting filmmakers with personal attacks, but the people behind this film are scumbags through and through. That clearly translates onto the screen as they try to pretentiously pretty up their obvious exploitation flick with bad narration (that sounds as if the “doctor” reading it were putting himself to sleep with his own voice). It’s already bad enough to exploit the misery of others for quick shock value and personal gain, but it’s somehow made even more despicable when you act like that’s not what you’re doing at all. The attempts of inserting voice-over poetry as well as would-be profound questions like “How much longer will we be plagued by violence in our society?” make this whole affair into a morally sickening piece of cinematic trash. There’s no depths that this film won’t sink to (those starving African children being shown off like a sideshow attraction really got me seething towards these filmmakers). I honestly hope that this is the worst film that I ever see. This is the bottom of the barrel.