Sub Rosa Studios // 2000 // 95 Minutes // Unrated
Reviewed by Chief Counsel Rob Lineberger (Retired) // November 13th, 2003
True horror is simply what one human being can do to another.
Scrapbook is truly horrific. Not cheesy, not exploitative, not light in any way -- just a brutal look into a killer and his victim. Wicked Pixel Cinema considers it their flagship film, but be warned: it is very intense.
I kept expecting the punch line. There isn't one. Basically a killer kidnaps women and makes them put entries into his scrapbook before he kills them. The movie focuses on one of his victims and how he tortures her. It would seem to have no redeeming value, but somehow it doesn't come off feeling cheap. Many people call for renewed vigor in the horror genre, an antidote to the Screams and Last Summers. Scrapbook does just that, pursue a truly horrific premise with detached objectivity and absolute adherence to reality.
If I didn't think it was well done, I'd tell people not to watch it. Last House on the Left has scenes of rape and violence that aren't actually depicted. Scrapbook goes the other way, leaving the camera on while a killer rapes his victim. And we aren't talking discreet: everyone's naughty parts are in full view. For some reason, I found this complete lack of affectation or sympathy refreshing. The movie comes across as more honest in a way. When I saw that scene, my first reaction was outrage at the exploitation. But afterward I realized my reaction was instinctive and not based on the scene itself. It is deadly serious and brutal, like porn without the niceties. I can't imagine how they could have made a more realistic, gritty, depressing comment on man's inhumanity to man. This is not on an epic scale like Schindler's List; it is one-on-one dehumanization.
Insights into the motivations behind Scrapbook are included in the extras. The behind-the-scenes featurette was most enlightening. It showed how the cast and crew had to interject levity into the set to balance the oppressive dehumanization inherent in the film. Learning how these independent filmmakers pulled off such a shocking premise with the level of maturity they did was almost as interesting as watching the film.
The video and audio quality are functional and nothing more. There is an impressive amount of stability and finesse to the camera work, even if the quality is not as polished as mainstream efforts. The audio gets dialogue across, but don't expect an Oscar nomination any time soon. It feels like The Blair Witch Project without the sickening lurch in your stomach.
This movie goes so far into non-mainstream territory that it makes you re-evaluate "normal" cinema. One could easily point at the nudity and violence and label Scrapbook a cheap exploitation film. The more difficult path is to realize that the film is not cheap, that it tackles the subject matter with gravity and realism in mind. Most telling is the emotional impact. Cheap exploitation would make us give up on the story and characters. Instead of feeling for the victim, we would feel sickened by manipulation and the shamelessness of the filmmakers. There is a small element of that feeling, but above all we do care about the characters, which is very difficult to pull off.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Sub Rosa Studios
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 95 Minutes
Release Year: 2000
MPAA Rating: Unrated
* Commentary Track by Director Stanze, Actress Emily Haack, and Producer Jeremy Wallace
* Behind-the-Scenes Featurette
* Stills Gallery
* Preview Trailers
* Easter Eggs