UK Release Date – TBC
With a strange title and a striking poster Alex Visani’s Stomach promises a lot. Both suggest all kinds of body horror imagery and subconscious desires. Does it ever deliver on any of these? Well no not really, but it’s worth noting what they might have been going for in this Italian blend of brutal violence and brutish performances. This is instead a rather messy but all too predictable tale of primal urges and animalistic hunger, one that is bereft of any real subtlety or tact. The potential of the story seems to have been almost entirely overlooked for some reason. However we’ll have to dissect the bowels of the beast to examine just what kind of undigested morsels are hidden inside.
For a few brief seconds the film opens with a quiet view of a rural estate, where the protagonist Alex (Fabio Carlani) lives in self-imposed isolation. However this is quickly shattered by a sex scene and a violent nightmare sequence that gives away the film-maker’s hand all too clearly. Extreme blue lighting for horror? Check. Nudity and bloody entrails in equal measure? Yes indeed. Of course with a little more restraint and even a little craft this could all be used to help establish a lurid and perhaps even ethereal tone. But like the barbaric creature Alex imagines in his mind each night this is all too heavy handed.
He proceeds to delivery a slew of existential narration that explains what is really going on. His wealthy parents are dead (under circumstances that are never mysterious) and he’s left to occupy their large house. The only really engaging moments of the film are during this introspective phase of the story, in which his stomach problems and his mental health seem to be connected. Is this all a metaphor for an eating disorder? The title suggests this might be the case. Alex struggles with eating and his kitchen is a mess. A subplot involving a local doctor visiting late at night may also be relevant. However as more characters are introduced it’s obvious this is just misdirection.
All the extraneous threads are simply here to provide murder victims as the animal within grows more ravenous. The doctor and his disobedient (and strangely adult) daughter could be interesting thematic links. A recurring television commercial involving a psychic called ‘Magic David’ is also intriguing. But these are literal dead ends and as things go on it becomes less and less compelling. Alex’s day job at a factory warehouse isn’t here to give him any characterisation, it’s just an way of introducing a band of repellent workers so they can die later on. His colleague Anna (Ingrid Monacelli) isn’t here to get him to talk about his problems, she’s just a victim.
The story about Alex’s parents, his ignorant boss, the gross factory workers; they’re all here to pad things out before the night-time horror begins. There are a few effectively gruesome special effects at least, with eyeballs, entrails and severed heads all making an appearance. But the execution of these set pieces is incredibly erratic and the constant cutaways to Alex writhing around as he sees the creature’s attacks is a big distraction. The message provided by a series of inserts that show a squirming abdomen is blunt to say the least. But the film uses them far too often; long after the mystery has evaporated.
The constantly shifting point of view and the laughably over the top music which plays during sequences of evisceration and rape result in an exhausting experience. The effects might seem to mirror Videodrome and the metal soundtrack might even feel like Phenomena but these are tenuous links to superior experiences. Second unit footage that shows the Italian countryside during Alex’s more peaceful moments are jarring in comparison. Some of it seems like stock footage or material from another movie. Perhaps this is an attempt to show the dichotomy of the human mind… or maybe it’s just a lack of concern for production continuity.
There isn’t really much going on under the surface thanks to a strangely passive lead and lots of overt narration about bad things making him feel good. It’s one dimensional and trite when it had the opportunity to be far more existential and interesting. Early on there are suggestions this might be about parental failings or real health problems. As things progressed it might have told a story about balancing good and bad desires in life. These are fairly simple concepts but they’re never explored. The final product is just a goopy mess which offers to leave you with little more than a case of indigestion.