Originally published in Bleeding Skull! A 1980s Trash-Horror Odyssey.
Truffaut. Godard. Malle. Rohmer. Ogroff.
If you’re sharp, you’ve determined that we’re speaking French. And, if you’re even sharper, you’ve recognized five key names in France’s magical cinematic revolution. Oui oui, my friend! Now that we’ve — what’s that? You say there’s something unsettling about one of the names on that list? One that lacks the approved familiarity of its peers? One that kind of smells like old meat, chainsaw oil, and over-heated synthesizers? Oui oui again! For this is Ogroff. And he has no peers.
Ogroff is a slasher perversion from the foothills of France. It’s also a benchmark in the halls of accidental, no-fi surrealism caught on Super 8/home video/construction paper. Shot sometime in the early 1980s by director video shoppe owner/horror zine publisher Norbert Georges Moutier aka Norbert Moutier aka N.G. Mount, I’ve watched Ogroff four times in three years. Each successive viewing brings me closer to the plotless, gore-drenched, gutter-poetic truth. Yet, that truth constantly eludes me. This film shocks me. It makes me laugh. It puts me to sleep. It keeps me guessing. There is no up or down, no left or right. So I keep watching. And it keeps delivering. Ogroff is an evil fairy tale from a warped mind. It’s comprised of a series of sinister tangents, which only make sense as the whole unfolds, as if escaping from the same sickly-yet-beautiful netherworld as Nirvana’s caustic In Utero. Needless to say, the experience sticks with you long after viewing. With roughly nine lines of actual dialogue, even.
The first half of Ogroff contains no plot to speak of. When the simplistic story arc takes shape, it’s a complete surprise. I won’t ruin that for you, but there’s no harm in conveying the trip we take to get there. Ogroff, clad in his rubber boots, knit cap, and metal mask, sets up house in a shack within a forest. He spends his time viciously attacking anyone that gets too close, destroying property, and masturbating with his pick-ax. He also pops out of car trunks for no apparent reason. After a random chainsaw duel with a lumberjack, Mr. O meets a girl. And that’s where the film shifts from mindless ruination to figurative flinching. Suddenly, the whole thing explodes with twists . . . Jess Franco alum Howard Vernon . . . a motorcycle . . . blinking eyes . . . the undead. Your eyes will be scorched in awe. The ending will leave you wanting more.
The sight of Ogroff hopping his way through the woods is equally eerie and ominous. The crude presentation, capped with the expansive wooded locales, only helps in that respect. As an experience in “horror,” Ogroff is intense. And effective. N.G. Mount’s kinetic stylings run rampant with ripped-off mannerisms from any number of slashers (The Burning, most prominently) and tops them all. On the other hand, Mount’s commitment to madness on all visual, technical, and constitutional levels yields iconic trash perfection, the likes of which are only equalled by fellow idiosyncratics such as Nick Millard, Doris Wishman, and Chester Turner. A soundtrack comprised of bedroom synth-pop, ambient noises, and lifted kung-fu sound effects seals it.
Should you agree that the epitome of life-enhancing cinema may lie somewhere between Eric Rohmer’s Moral Tales and Doris Wishman’s A Night To Dismember, then Ogroff probably has your number. Besides, nobody destroys a VW Bug with a pick-ax in My Night At Maud’s. And that’s something worth seeing.