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January 15, 2012

Movie Review: Black Past (1989)

Directed by Olaf Ittenbach

Reviewed by Greg Goodsell

In the year the Berlin Wall came tumbling down, a disaffected German youth named Thommi (director-writer-star Olaf Ittenbach) discovers a heavily sealed box in his family home’s attic. Said box contains a cursed mirror, which led the original home’s owner to go on a killing spree and wipe out his whole family. The mirror takes possession of Thommi’s girlfriend and commands her to go out and play in traffic, and when she’s struck by a passing car and killed, He becomes inconsolable. He is tormented of nightmares where his girlfriend, her arms and legs sticking out of holes in astroturf – wait! She’s supposed to be dismembered! Ooooops! Thommi falls under the spell of the mirror, and likewise kills his family and lasts of strawberry punch is thrown around.

Buy Black Past on DVD from Amazon UK

Before I started reviewing films for Cinema Head Cheese, I said I would review ANYTHING save for shot-on-video homegrown dreck. Life is too short. Ittenbach apparently shot this on film, and so is spared being tossed into the woodpile. Ye reviewer first became aware of Ittenbach with The Burning Moon (1997), a two story horror omnibus that showed a bit of daring and imagination. Black Past is just a reminder that everyone has to start someplace. I haven’t seen any other of Ittenbach's 15-plus features, but they exist for little else than B-AAAAAAD special effects, the kind that would shame a haunted house put on by your local Chamber of Commerce. Seeing a meat cleaver go into a little girl’s head would ordinarily be shocking and taboo shattering, but in ol’ Olaf’s hands, it’s pretty lame. During Thommi’s climactic murder spree, lots of body parts unaccustomed to meat cleaver justice are gorily dispatched, but none of it would fool an autistic child.

There are a few remarkable things about Black Past that were not intended by Ittenbach. Specifically, the clothes and hairstyles all the characters wear. For a film shot in 1989, everything could pass for 1983. Men, women and children sport bi-levels, ladies’ hair is teased high into the sky and everyone wears acid wash and ugly, puffy, sleeping bag coats. Unintentionally, Ittenbach as the lead is perhaps foreshadowing the ideal audience for this film – guys with mullets who haven’t been on a date for a long, long time. There’s also a telling bit of cultural differences between American and European families. Thommi’s family glares disapprovingly at him as he takes a long tug straight from a whiskey bottle at the breakfast table. A closer inspection of the scene reveals his family is drinking beer with their steak and eggs!

The last hour of the film, with its nonstop screams and cheap music would make Black Past ideal background music to greet trick and treaters this coming October – audio only. This project is indeed something from Ittenbach’s black past.

(Screencaps for Black Past courtesy of Rock! Shock! Pop!)

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