When I decided to watch some controversial movies, some that I’ve seen and some that I have not, I knew Salo or the 120 Days of Solom would be one of those films I should watch.  I had heard about the film quite a number of years ago when I worked at a movie store.  Someone was telling me about this movie where kids are rounded up, made the walk around naked, and basically tortured physically, emotionally, and sexually.

I tried to watch the film originally and was pretty disgusted at what I saw.  The film is hard to describe in a category but I suppose if I had to pick one it is horror.  It’s not like Texas Chainsaw or The Exorcist…but I consider it even worse.  For the horrors that come in Salo continuously come.  It becomes more depraved as the film goes on and thus becomes even harder to swallow.  I turned it off the first time around 30-40 minutes through.  It was probably a wise decision on my end because watching it this time all the way through it turned my stomach quite a bit.  I can watch most horror movies and I’m fine with what I’m seeing.  With Salo…I was almost on the verge of puking.

The film is the final film of director Pier Paolo Pasolini who adapted it from the Marquis de Sade’s book The 120 Days of Solom.  It was updated from 18th century France to Italy during the final days of Mussolini’s fascist empire.  It doesn’t make this adaptation less abhorrent.  Changing the scenery does nothing when the content matter is this vile.

I actually wanted to turn this movie off several times.  I went from being slightly bored to very disgusted….back to slightly bored…to very, very disgusted.  This film isn’t for everyone and it certainly isn’t for me.

The film is about four wealthy fascists who kidnap a group of 16 kids off the streets (9 boys, 9 girls) and bring them out to the country where no one knows where they are.  With a group of soldiers and a 4 older prostitutes they camp out in a huge mansion.  The boys and girls are made to be in constant undress.

The prostitutes tell horrible, disgusting stories of what they have been through in life.  These stories are told to actually excite the four wealthy men who then take their own sick depravities out on these kids.

As the film starts out rape becomes very prevalent.  A naked girl forced to serve food naked falls over and is raped by a soldier.  Two kids are forced to marry and make out only to then be raped.  When one of the prostitutes start telling stories of pissing on a client and another client actually eating shit the 4 men decide that nothing is better than having these poor children take a shit then forcing them to eat it.  To eat the shit that they shit out.

There is no rest for the kidnapped.  There is nowhere to go.  There’s no escape.  They can only be victims locked away from the world.  Everything that is done to these kids are done simply for the sexual pleasure of the four depraved men and as the months go on they just get worse and worse.

The film does a great job of not giving us a protagonist.  The film doesn’t follow what is going on through one person’s eyes.  Usually in a horror film you get to know your characters.  As they die off you usually continue to root for them until someone eventually (hopefully) gets away from their killers.  But in Salo we don’t get to know any of the victims.  They are just presented as these poor naked children who are forced to be fondled, sitting around naked, raped, and then murdered.  There is no one to root for because we don’t know these poor kids.  Usually getting to know your characters means there is some sort of hope.  Hope that someone is going to escape what is going on.  Here it doesn’t happen.  You don’t get to know these kids.  You only get to know the antagonists who will do nothing but continue to torture and murder to their hearts content.  Even if they escape what is coming for them it isn’t dwelled upon.  Pasolini just moves on to show how depraved their captors are.

Storywise there isn’t much to the film.  The kids are all kidnapped and brought to the house.  They are told the rules of the house.  The prostitutes tell their stories.  The men get off on the stories and totally fuck with the poor kids.  Treat them like animals.  At one point they put leashes around their necks and make them walk on all fours, up steps, and act like dogs.  Beg like dogs.  Eat scraps like dogs.  Nails are put in a bread and one poor girl is forced to eat it unknowingly.  Her cries almost seem too real as the blood spurts from her mouth.  It is almost the kind of film that you think everything is real.  And why not?  These poor kids are walking around naked the entire film and they are consistently groped by their captors.  In actuality these poor actors are walking around naked while they are consistently groped by these older actors.  No matter which way you look at it…it’s fucked up.

The eating shit scene was probably the hardest to get through – believe it or not there are multiple scenes.  The worst may be the first time it happens, when a poor naked girl is given a spoon by the asshole who just shit on the floor.  She’s screamed at as she cries, looking down at the excrement she is being told to eat.  All you can do is sit there as she is screamed at, as she cries, as she finally dips her spoon in the shit, and tries to bring it up to her mouth.  It is depravity at its finest and the film does a wonderful job capturing how fucked up people can be.  I just sat there and thought about this poor actress and what she actually had to accomplish while being fully naked, crying, surrounded by actors, cameramen, and a director.

Do the kids get away in the end?  This being a horror movie with no hope should right there tell you the answer.  Like I said…there’s no escape for these kids and what they go through in the end is just as horrible as what they went through the entire film.

Just as the Marquis de Sade’s book was banned upon its release so to was this film banned as well.  In many countries it was banned just because the actors looked like they were under 18.  I didn’t find this so – I’m sure all the actors were 18-19…not that it matters.  The horrors put forth in this film and what happened to them should be enough to ban the film…having these young kids being “the stars” is just the icing on this cake.

Can I recommend this film?  Not at all.  Unless you like to watch young naked kids act like dogs, eat shit, and then tortured to death it isn’t for you.  If you like watching hard to watch movies like this then it may be for you.

Pasolini was murdered before Salo was released.  Some say he was trying to recover some stolen prints from the film.  The prints were never recovered and scenes had to be reshoot.  Poor dude was run over a couple times by his own car.  Talk about fucked up.

I only watched this through to see what happens in the end.  I really wish I had just turned the film off…