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Home | Film Reviews | Extreme Cinema | Film Review: House of the Flesh Mannequins (2009)

Film Review: House of the Flesh Mannequins (2009)

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“House of Flesh Mannequins” is a nostalgic homage – and sure amused – that winks at the classic films from the 70’s. A movie set that look like a stage (and the film itself is divided in 3 Acts), searched costumes and hairdos, cinematography of Mirco Sgarzi that recalls with personality the atmospheres of the best Fulci and Argento’s movie. This is cinema maded from who loves the cinema, a movie rich of winks and citations that the most expert (but not only them) will be amused to pick: from Lynch to the surrealism of the 30’s, passing trought Fulci and Cronenberg. International p*rn stars and regular actors working together for the first time with extreme body art performers used in the torture scenes. Everything is real, but at the same time, everything is done for the purpose of creating a movie, which is anything but real. The movie presents a compelling case against the use of gratuitous violence on TV as well as the self-righteous, sanctimonious ways that society chooses to confront children’s issues.


While these days in movie making it’s easy to call anything bizarre Lynchian with hopes of leaving it at that to fill in the gaps, House of Flesh Mannequins stands in a class all its own. Surely the most bizarre I’ve seen this year and yet at times closer to Hell than many who’ve tried. Directed and written by Domiziano Cristopharo, HOFM is really not for everyone and perhaps even not for alot of horror fans. P*rnography litters through out but only in sprinkles rather than overtaking.

Add to that the fact that those scenes are much more connected to a “Dante’s inferno” reality than what you would see else where. The film is hard to follow at times due to some accents and some low speaking sections. However it has a remarkable talent for making viewers feel like a voyeur of nastiness than being a participant. Add to the fact that some of the horrors shown within are real acted moments combined at times with body mutilation and dark underground humor. If that lead in isn’t enough to peak your curiosity then read on.

Sebastian, a loner artist, photographer and filmmaker spends his days in the seediness of life’s elements. Helping a local child p*rnographer by taking pictures, photographing violent acts and spending alot of time watching homemade films filled with jarring imagery, Sebastian also happens to be his buildings landlord.

We find he has suffered an abused childhood that his psychologist father tortured him by sleep deprivation and constant home videos. Explained as a series of tests to drive industry reports, his father also crossed the taboos of child father relationships with inappropriate behavior and exposure. Things begin to change for him when an apartment tenant Sarah Roeg ( Irena A. Hoffman) begin to take interest in his work and Sebastian himself. Mr. Roeg, Sarah’s father seems to be handicapped in a number of ways. He is partially blind, speaks thru a throat aid and spends most of his time sitting in a throne like chair. Though viewers may be wishing for subtitles as I found most his lines incomprehensible and at a lower volume than I could decipher. Sarah and Sebastian evolve into a relationship of sorts. Sarah also begins to open up to Sebastian’s bizarre imagery.

The movie is probably the closest to an art house film as you’re likely to see. When Sebastian visits a local fetish house, the showcased acts and participants take on a more supernatural tone which waver between gory and just plain creepy.

Domiziano Arcangeli’s performance was less than inspiring. Shallow, broken and quaint… I really wasn’t sure what to make of him or what he is about. Irena A. Hoffman is lovely, alluring and every bit the temptress with a talent for mysterious and edgy. Randal Malone who plays Cannoluti is perfect for his seedy street pervert child p*rn ringleader. Interested viewers can also catch him playing the role of John Wayne Gacy in Dahmer vs. Gacy.

In research, the movie has maintained a very criticized impression upon movie goers with its over the top at times gratuity and sexual perversions. Though that impression is also intertwined with film critic brilliance putting it in a weird place for placement. Whatever the case, the film raised more than a few eyebrows by labeling it quickly under controversy where ever it has been shown…which by today’s standards means that it will rise to the frontline to the interest of several viewers.

I think I’ve seen enough horror and cult films to recommend that you approach this with a different set of eyes. Straight horror and usual fanfare…you won’t find it here. Though for those bored of the mainstream may find salvation her as well. There is enough of plotlines that it isn’t all just eye candy, however alot of the feedback I believe is reserved for coffee stop conversations among film students than horror circles. Surreal , poetic, jarring, erotic, haunting…. all those things and more. Boldly brave, it pulls you into its own hell and introduces you to new visions.

House of the Flesh Mannequins


  1. Mr. Arcangeli’s performance shallow and broken? Man: you must have seen a different film than the one I saw.
    Mr. Arcangeli made the Best of an extremely difficult,unlikable Character that has to result unsettling,mysterious,stiff,perverse and sick. His Eyes shine though, and speak to the audience in the final part of the film when he’s finally allowed by the plot and by the director, to express the mystery,the core of this sad and painful,shocking story.
    Mr. Arcangeli is one of the few actors today that can convey a whole speech just by raising an eyebrow.
    And this is a common quote from directors like Pete Bishart,Mauro Borrelli, Jeff Leroy,and Zalman King!
    Your harsh and tasteless demolition of such an Original and measured piece of work makes me think that you might just see excellent actors just as beautiful ladies with big boobs, but you may wanna be paying more attention to layered and extremely personal,visceral performances… and for your own sake you should see the same actor playing an Angelic&Troubled Teenager in the Academy Award Nominated Federico Fellini’s Film”Intervista” where he steals the show anytime he was on screen at age 17, and at the same time and more recently,playing a merciless killer(in the hit “Samurai Avenger: The Blind Wolf”), an attacked and raped flamboyant fashion stylist in Sasha Baron Cohen’s Bruno,an android in Lionsgate upcoming “H1N1:Virus X”,a desperate assassin opposite Jeffrey Wright in Showtime’s “Sin’s Kitchen”,or an intense drug dealer in the also upcoming great film”Box of Shadows”by M.Borrelli,not to mention a whole Gallery of Characterizations in Horrors and Independent Cinema: the guy changes so much in every picture, it has been a problem for his reps to make him actually a more recognizable face,because his Look changes drastically in every work he does.. you may wanna check out, at some point,a few of these cult flicks (including Lenzi’ Black Demons and Tinto Brass’ Paprika,1991)and just -maybe- to widen your film knowledge and your sense of what real acting is, Besides delivering Lines Loud and Clear and showing boobs,That is.
    I added the personal site of the actor just so that you& the readers of this blog may see how many different characters Mr. Arcangeli has been able to portray,making them real, luminous and vibrant in a 5 Minutes Performance Reel. And Hear-again- what of some of the Directors who have directed him sometimes more than once,have to say talking about a real man and a focused Professional Like him(again all great pro’s like Dennis Dugan,to Zalman King,And Jeff Leroy,Rich Ramsey,Jay Roach,Liliana Cavani,mr.Borrelli,Pete Bishart,Jeffrey Wright who shared the screen with him, playing a desperate assassin in Showtime’s hit’Sin’s kitchen’and so on..
    Thank you for reading everybody, but this was insulting to a very sensitive and intense actor who has at 40 years old,already 30 years of Internationally reknown Professional Career Behind His Shoulders in Films,TV and Stage.

  2. Novak Dillane

    I agree with this last ( maybe a little too passionate, and partial, perhaps lol ) comment ! I just watched this movie, and, was touched , frankly almost stunned, by Domiziano ARCANGELI’s performance : to me, if in certain moments, his work appeared uneven, it was simply because the nature of the character was so compulsive, damaged and compulsive, broken up by an abusive past he can never leave behind, as if he was almost incapable to shake off that morbid perversion that makes eventually the movie itself become such an over all powerful depiction of the pity ( and the lack of the same one, too) toward all “different” people, along as well, with its own message, that most bravely suggests to never judge anyone at first, and, possibly, even afterwards, since it appears to be pretty impossible today to detach ourselves from a certain indulgence we all in different ways, spend by indulging in either P*rn, or violent, forbidden material, or mere mainstream voyeurism, such as Reality Tv, a phenomenon, the movie targets very cleverly : if all of a sudden, someone becomes famous and wealthy, maybe, even by just exploiting themselves, and/or their lives, then in that case, some may even be able to get away with murder, while, instead, the really frail, abused ones, not so accepted by most, like Sebastian ( to whom again I think Domiziano Arcangeli brings here to life, with an almost disturbing realism, and power, thanks also to his unusual traits, and deep, mysterious eyes), generally end up paying the bill for most, here meaning in particular, a corrupted, disjointed, and, ultimately so unfair society, that has become increasingly insensitive, and dangerously closed, almost as a perpetual enemy to any form of more personal, genuinely honest consideration over real existential torments, but also, so inconsiderate toward all people who allow themselves to be vulnerable, and, so even simply more human, to the point of poignantly creating such profound, insightful questions over the whole plot of this movie, I have found so beautifully poetic, and extremely well made: a real punch in the stomach for most, that doesn’t for once feel simply as your typical attempt at scaring audiences with scenes, that may be certainly, and by far, some of the most realistically raw, brutal, and shocking I have ever even seen before, but, that in this inspired, lyrical movie truly become always never less than compelling, and, especially to anyone, who’d like to think over matters that are way beyond controversial or graphic, because they deeply can touch the subconscious of those still interested in truly understanding what’s between good and evil, and, to what point we may all lay way too quietly, so confused by today’s amoral, fake impression often wrongly communicated to us by shameful elements, such as superstition, abuse, judgement, but, also by the obvious most noble ones, such as love, ideals, and simply life itself ! I strongly recommend anyone to see this movie, and, leaving home any sort of moralistic Puritanism, trying instead to embrace its deep story, with empathy, and some real more human consideration for all of those who suffer lives way more above, and beyond the edge than those we may be simply more familiar with, and, always asking ourselves not to immediately label them, as simply bad, or atrocious, and so, way too far from us, but, asking instead ourselves, what if something alike had happened to me, for example! And, I think you may be surprised !


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