Monday, July 29, 2013

Deviation (1971)

It shouldn’t seem like a stretch to think that when the name of José Ramón Larraz is brought up the film that immediately springs to the minds of most folks is Vampyres (1974), which is understandable seeing as how that film was pivotal for not only Larraz’s career but also for that era of European sleazy horror/exploitation filmmaking. What more casual fans might not be aware of however is the films Larraz made leading up to  Vampyres, for instance his debut Whirlpool (1970), Scream and Die (1973) and Symptoms (1974) plus several others that came after such as the notorious Black Candles (1982), Edge of the Axe (1988), which actually has seen a bit of a rediscovery over the last few years, a beautiful thing of course, and Deadly Manor (1990) are worthy of the same attention. On one hand, its easy to call Larraz one of most underappreciated genre directors because lets face it, he is when taking into consideration the lack of attention that has been paid to his films in terms of DVD releases. On the other hand, Larraz has a loyal following of passionate fans who readily sing the deserved praises of his films. Deviation was Larraz’s second film following Whirlpool, and it is indeed one such film that the majority of Larraz fanatics agree is one of his best efforts showcasing a unique artist taking the next step.    

While driving down a desolate country back road late at night Paul and his mistress Olivia crash their car after swerving to avoid hitting a man that jumped out in front of them. Nearby, local brother and sister Julian and Rebecca hear the crash and offer Paul and Rebecca shelter for the night. Despite accepting their invitation, Paul is slightly untrusting of the eccentric siblings and during the night decides to do some snooping around the house only to discover that his suspicions were warranted as he is murdered by Rebecca along with Julian and their group of demented hippy friends. Julian claims that Paul has gone back to work in London and that she can stay while the car is repaired. Under the influence of drugs Julian has secretly been feeding her, Olivia quickly becomes entwined in Julian and Rebecca’s deviant world of sex and drugs, completely oblivious to their murderous tendencies.

Deviation is the logical successor to Larraz’s debut Whirlpool. Watching the two back to back is interesting as Deviation sees Larraz continue developing his favorite thematic obsessions while at the same time expanding his palate a bit. While Whirlpool was fairly straightforward from a narrative standpoint, Deviation is a tad more ambitious with Larraz throwing in some odd subplots involving taxidermy and even a psychic aunt so needless to say things become a bit strange, especially when Julian and Rebecca’s friends, no doubt inspired by the Manson family show up. The added element of having Olivia constantly be under the influence was a nice touch, allowing a for a good amount of ambiguity concerning certain plot points. This film may be paced a bit faster than Whirlpool, but Larraz still successfully takes his time with the way he has the film play out, and there is never a dull moment, especially when considering the type of material Larraz is dealing with, not to mention the mysterious personalities of the characters,  Rebecca especially is particularly interesting and the spidery presence of actress Lisbet Lundquist makes her all the more fascinating. Deviation also finds Larraz becoming more stylish behind the camera, and its with this film that he really beings to show off his knack for getting the most out of his locations. The films opening credits sequence is a definite highlight featuring Lundquist running though a forest surrounded by brown foliage and the drug fueled orgies makes for some nice visual delirium.

Unlike Whirlpool, Deviation actually did eventually find its way to home video via a scratchy VHS courtesy of Marquis Video, a Canadian label complete with extremely misleading box art which, according to IMDb is a photo from Fred Olen Ray’s film Scalps (1983). Also according to IMDb, that film was also released around the same time on the same label although why exactly they company felt it necessary to feature a still from it on the box for Larraz’s film is anyone’s guess. To this day, Deviation, and this should come as no surprise to anybody, has yet to see an official DVD release so for now DVD-R is the way to go. Luckily there are those out there who believe that films like this need to be seen and there are several sites that sell copies of this film. Its fairly easy to find for generous prices so it really just comes down to the online retailer of preference. Again, Deviation is Larraz taking his next cinematic leap forward, both thematically but also visually, with Larraz showing off a bit more behind the camera letting his background in art start to shine through, something which would be become more and more evident the more films he made. More involving than the average so called “Euro sleaze” affair and in no short supply of intrigue, Deviation is ultimately one of Larraz’s most accomplished films.    

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