Martina, a biology student, who after moving from her hometown to complete her studies decides to undertake an excursion to the outskirts of the city in search of rare and exotic specimens for research. Not finding the specimen after a long search, she decides to rest by the roadside. At that time, her new psychotic neighbors propose to take her to the woods where they claim is the specimen that she seeks. Martina accepts the crossing naturally, but on the way the thugs kidnap her, determined to cause all sorts of sinister and gruesome acts, both physical and psychological. The story takes an unexpected turn when Martina decides to release her pent- up anger.
When Your Flesh Screams (Cuando tu Carne Grite Basta) is a gritty independent rape-revenge thriller from Argentina. It was written and directed by Guillermo Martinez, and while this is his first venture into directing, he did previously write the novel that would become the Elijah Wood/John Hurt film, The Oxford Murders. It might take a little while to get where it’s going, but overall this is a fairly impressive debut.
The film opens with a quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson (tell me the last exploitation film where you got a taste of transcendentalism on top of the transgressive?), then introduces our protagonist, Martina, played by Victoria Witemburg (a regular in the films of Adrian Garcia Bogliano, including Penumbra and 36 Steps, and also the only actor in this film with any real acting resume to speak of). She has a brief phone conversation with her mother: she’s alone, she’s far from home in a sparsely populated area, and her boyfriend was supposed to meet her but never showed up. And with this ominous bit of exposition, the stage is set for all the bad that is about to transpire.
Up front, we also meet a couple of bad dudes – drug pushers, murderers, overall creeps (I believe their names are Rocco and Willy, but the subtitles called one of them Ricardo, a name that does not appear in the credits at all). They come along Martina, who is sitting outside resting after a long day of field research for school. They offer to drive her home, but their car mysteriously stops working. Next thing you know, they grab her, knock her out, and put her in the car. They bring her to an abandoned building, where another guy, an eye-patch wearing guy named Villalobos (?), has Martina’s brother tied up. Things get ugly immediately.
When Your Flesh Screams has plenty of nasty moments that’ll make your skin crawl, and a lot of those moments, as you might imagine, include rape. Martina’s boyfriend is raped and beaten and she is forced to watch, warned at one point that she will be next. And eventually, this comes to pass, not once but twice. She is beaten, she is violated with a gun, she is verbally berated, and she is urinated on and left for dead. But, of course, we know that this story isn’t going to end like that, don’t we?
There are hints of Last House on the Left and I Spit on your Grave throughout this film, which has an overall 1970’s exploitation vibe to it. Most of the film is dedicated to the abuse of Martina, leaving the inevitable revenge chapter until the very, very end, which makes it all feel a bit rushed. With the amount of sadism aimed at her throughout the film, her retaliation seems undeveloped – not that she needed to take her time or anything, but believe me, it goes by too quickly. But at least her choice of weaponry is somewhat creative.
I like When Your Flesh Screams enough, but there was certainly a bit of room for improvement too. A couple scenes suffered from the “too dark to see what’s happening” curse that so many low budget films run into. The acting was okay, passable but nothing award-worthy. It seemed there were a couple of extra characters added to the film just to cushion the running time, especially a guy at the end who just kind of appears and spends most of his screen time on the phone. His character seemed wholly unimportant to any of the story, as did a scene which showed Martina’s mother knocking on her door to find her not home. But these are minor offenses, forgivable for sure. Guillermo Martinez is a new filmmaker who I’ll be checking back in with in the future. When Your Flesh Screams shows us that he has potential and some skills, and I’d be interested to see what he can do next, now that his rookie effort is out for the world to see.