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An Apt Title

If your grasp on reality is already a bit tenuous, Lunacy may be a film best left unwatched. This mind-bending film is characterized by the director, Jan Svankmajer ( Little Otik), as a horror film inspired by both Edgar Allan Poe and the Marquis de Sade.

While not a horror film in the sense that mainstream audiences may expect, Lunacy is a horror film in perhaps the most horrific way. What is more horrifying than a mind coming unhinged? So much of Poe’s work focused on this idea and Svankmajer has done a pretty respectable job of bringing this pervasive feeling of imminent insanity to vivid life.

Jean Berlot (Pabel Liska) is a somber, mournful traveler on his way to nowhere in particular after attending his mother’s funeral. Coincidentally, Berlot’s mother spent most of her life in an asylum. Right away, we’re off to a pretty grim start. Berlot suffers from terrifying nightmares involving some demented orderlies who creep into his bedroom at night and try to stuff him in a straitjacket.

Berlot meets the wealthy (if not eclectic) Marquis (Jan Triska). The Marquis takes him in and things go from bad to worse in short order. The Marquis is clearly using Berlot as a guinea pig for his disturbing and demeaning social experiments that entail sexual depravity, sacrilege, and debauchery…in no particular order.

Intermingled throughout Lunacy is an abundance of animated, anthropomorphic meat. Director Svankmajer injects these disturbing images throughout the film. If you have an affinity for writhing cow tongues, lolling eyeballs, and various other assorted meat parts, Lunacy has got you covered.

While disturbing, the animated meat sequences are primarily absurd and become almost comical towards the end of the film. This surrealistic touch adds to the already unhinged flavor of Lunacy. The most ardent carnivore will likely be given pause after taking this one in.

Exactly what the animated meat sequences are supposed to be conveying is open to interpretation, but the film itself is less about the actual story and characters and more about an underlying philosophical debate about how to treat and manage those who are deemed "insane". Is ruling by fear and punishment the answer? Or is allowing certain liberties and freedom a more effective tact to employ?

What we’re left with is a pretty effective art house horror film that leaves you pondering the aforementioned questions. Lunacy won’t resonate for a large audience, but it’s a film that is worth seeing and is the kind of film that doesn’t often show up in the box office. However, the squeamish need not apply.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars