Xpiation (2017) Review
Xpiation from director Domiziano Cristopharo (Tales to Tell in the Dark, Nightmare Symphony) and writer Andrea Cavaletto (Dead House, Hidden in the Woods) is the last film in the so-called “Trilogy of Death”. It, along with American Guinea Pig: Sacrifice by Poison Rouge and Torment by Adam Ford, offer up three extreme visions of pain, suffering and death.
Regular readers will know this isn’t my usual choice of viewing material. But, having seen and enjoyed several of the director’s other films, including eROTik which also delves deeply into torture, I decided to give Xpiation a chance. And, while it’s not his best film, I’m glad I took a chance on it.
On its surface, Xpiation seems to be a very simple film, a fairly basic example of torture porn. A man (Simone Tolu) tortures a naked, bound victim (Emanuele Delia) while a bored-looking woman (Chiara Pavoni, Blue Sunset) watches and occasionally records the proceedings. Along with her, we watch as those proceedings begin with slaps and punches before intensifying to steel wool on bare skin, the use of acid, a hammer to the groin, and worse. All of it is rendered in extremely realistic effects by Cristopharo under his Athanasius Pernath pseudonym. It’s definitely not for the weak of stomach.
If that was all Xpiation had to offer it would be easy to dismiss it as a more extreme version of Hostel. But the film has more depth than that. The dictionary defines expiation as “the act of making amends or reparation for guilt or wrongdoing; atonement”. And we see how the film justifies its title through flashbacks showing how Pavoni’s character became what we see before us. We also get a trip inside what’s left of the torturer’s drug-addled mind. And ultimately we do find out why their victim is being subjected to this torture.
It’s not exactly Shakespeare or even Stephen King but it does put Xpiation above a lot of extreme films which omit even the pretense of a plot. Cristopharo and Cavaletto give us at least some background and motivation for the film’s three characters. I’m sure a large percentage of the film’s audience won’t care, but it made it a lot more watchable for me.
As with most of the director’s films, Xpiation is extremely well done from a technical perspective, which also helps to put it above a lot of other films of this type. The abandoned building used as a set is a nice backdrop and the score by Antony Coia (Ill: Final Contagium) compliments what goes on there nicely.
Xpiation is currently available from Tetrovideo.