Kudos to Catfreeek for discovering and promoting this bizarre and imaginative little gem! Produced by Claudio Argento (Dario’s equally twisted brother) and directed by cult cinema legend Alejandro Jodorowsky (who helmed the midnight classic El Topo), Santa Sangre is coated with so much striking imagery that it’s easy to overlook the intricate narrative.
Protagonist Fenix is first introduced naked, in a tree, in the corner of a room in a Mexican insane asylum. It was here where I realized that I was in store for one of Catfreeek’s freeekier recommendations. The events that led to his mental breakdown are slowly revealed through a series of eerie and horrific flashbacks.
Fenix grew up in the in the circus, which may very well be the most untraditional (and awesome!) environment imaginable. His father Orgo was a boorish, philandering knife thrower in charge of the show. His mother Concha performed as a trapeze artist. In her spare time she was also the leader of a peculiar religious cult that worshiped an unknown dismembered saint. The church featured a pool of blood of “santa sangre” or Holy blood.
When Concha learned that Orgo was having an affair with the bawdy tattooed women he hurled his knives at, she responded with jealous rage and doused their genitals with corrosive acid, prompting Orgo to cut off Concha's arms before committing suicide.
Flash forward to adulthood again and we see Fenix and his mother performing a new act where he acts as her arms. While standing behind her, Fenix puts his arms through her sleeves and does her bidding, which include playing the piano, cooking and murdering women that Concha deems unworthy.
It’s very easy to be overwhelmed by the outlandish visual elements that include an elephant funeral, the smallest little person I’ve ever seen, terrifying hallucinations and children with Down Syndrome given cocaine. But underneath it all lies an intelligent and passionate film filled with religious references, Freudian undertones, questions of free will and boat loads of ideas that I probably haven’t even considered yet. I agree with Catfreeek that this is a film that will reward repeated viewings.