September 28, 2014 at 6:05 pm (5 Heads, Epitaph) (, , , )

Epitaph – 1987 – United States

The Fulton family moves constantly from town to town. The psychotic mother Martha cannot stop killing people, and her loyal family must continually hide the murders. Martha is a perpetually moody drunk with a sexual psychosis. She advises her teenage daughter, “Don’t talk to any boys at school. They only have one thing on their mind.” Yet she wears nothing but slinky nightgowns and tries to seduce everyone. The rest of the family (father, daughter, and grandmother) are earnest kindly people, who apparently stay with Martha out of love even as she emotionally and physically abuses them.

Epitaph (renamed Mommy’s Epitaph by Troma), is so pessimistic and disturbing that it is absurd. When Martha begins killing members of her family, they never contact the police. Apparently, their familial ties are so strong that they would rather risk their lives to tolerate her. While the characters and their behaviors are hardly realistic, Epitaph spends a lot of time exploring the characters’ emotional states. Martha’s outrageous antics recall Mommie Dearest (1981), but more interesting is the teenage daughter’s relationship with her boyfriend and her sexual awakening.

Of course, Epitaph also has plenty of gory murders. People are knifed, shot, chopped with pickaxes, lit on fire, and dismembered with power tools. The most spectacular death involves a hungry rat, a bucket, a blowtorch, and the victim’s tender guts. Just as intense are scenes of emotional abuse as Martha manipulates and terrorizes her family. Rather than being a slasher film, Epitaph is a melodrama, albeit a very twisted one.

Rating: 5/10 Shrunken Heads. The first documented account of the rat-in-a-bucket torture is from the Dutch Revolt in the sixteenth century. I wonder when it was first put to film?


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