Editor’s Notes: Anarchy Parlor is currently out in limited theatrical release.
It’s not only the Lithuanian Department of Tourism that’s likely to take umbrage at Anarchy Parlor, debut directorial duo Devon Downs and Kenny Gage’s feebly familiar effort to cash in on the Hostel-inspired torture-tourism fad: this is a humdrum horror so bereft of wit or wile its tedium transcends all borders. This is the kind of horror whose sanguine sensibilities are often dismissed as pornographic, but that’s a gross misunderstanding both of the intrinsic intent of adult entertainment and, by and large, its ability to achieve it: no, this puerile piece of shabbily-shot nonsense is but the ugly equivalent of an unfortunate Chatroulette session, a gruesome self-serving show of furious fapping that’s so relentlessly pathetic there’s no one getting off.
Feebly familiar effort to cash in on the Hostel-inspired torture-tourism fad: this is a humdrum horror so bereft of wit or wile its tedium transcends all borders.
It’s far more akin to that Eli Roth effort than the New French Extremity outrés Downs and Gage claim as inspiration; the likes of Inside, Frontier(s) and Sheitan might have far-ranging rates of success, but their voluminous vats of blood at least attested both a visceral pulse and a brain thereby powered. Anarchy Parlor has neither as it follows the fates of six American and English tourists on vacation in Vilnius, tediously tracking their party-people antics before it cuts to the chase in the shady studio of the title. That neither of the writer-directors appears to know what anarchy means is small surprise after a moment in the movie’s company: there’s nothing ostensibly offered by title or template that even the most easily-sated viewer is likely to find here.
Some credit, at least, should go to Robert LaSardo, whose hundred-plus credits must have made a quasi-lead role terribly tempting. His soft-spoken manner and sombre smile as he sets about harvesting the skin of his quarry might be effective in a movie less resolutely repetitive. But Downs and Gage have written a film of structure as unbearably underdone as the people who fill it, and as LaSardo carefully peels back yet another flap of flesh, it starts to seem about as unsettling as the sight of a man folding laundry, and not nearly as interesting. For all the inadvisable excesses of those Francophone efforts from which this pair take their cues, the movies never bored; Anarchy Parlor’s bloodshed is so soporifically cyclical it may be hard to imagine ever enjoying a horror again.
Anarchy Parlor’s bloodshed is so soporifically cyclical it may be hard to imagine ever enjoying a horror again.
Certainly not one of this sort, and if there’s an upside at all to the existence of the film—big if—it’s in categorically proving this peculiar trend of xenophobic brutality has run its course, if indeed ever it had one. From the casual cultural ignorance that characterises the shooting of the setting itself to a deeply disingenuous portrait of youth that’s only excusable as a barely-veiled indulgence in one of the oldest genre tropes in the book, Downs and Gage have made a movie whose abundance of aspersions reflect only on them. Paired with an extended lapdance sequence the plot practically snaps in craning to squeeze in, it’s a telling portrait of the talent at work.
Equally audacious and amusing claims to satirical intent have come courtesy of social media, but the necessity of their iteration outside of the film itself says it all: there’s not a page of the script with a shred of subtlety to it, nor an actor amidst the cast with the craft to convey it if there were. As it is they can scarcely handle cliché: the best of them are lucky to exit the film without impact; the worst are likely to occupy nightmares for weeks. Rendering brutality banal and earning unerring unease for all the wrong reasons, Anarchy Parlor is a tepid task of a film, an experience exactly as grisly as it sets out to be.
Rendering brutality banal and earning unerring unease for all the wrong reasons, Anarchy Parlor is a tepid task of a film, an experience exactly as grisly as it sets out to be.