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ADRENALINE (1990).

This collection of brain-fried French vignettes was too weird and pretentious for any U.S. distributors, so few people in on this side of the Atlantic have heard of it, or the seven-pack of directors who contributed their demented wares, including Yann Piquer, Jean-Marie Maddeddu, Anita Assal, John Hudson, Barthelemy Bompard, Alain Robak, and Philippe Dorison. It's a mixed bag, but by cramming a dozen shorts into only 73 minutes, the filmmakers do their best to keep our attention from wandering. Several of the entries share a common, paranoid theme, with the environment and/or inanimate objects suddenly going berserk. A woman panics when her apartment ceiling descends on her; a car drives its 'owner' around under its own power; and a surveillance camera rips itself loose from the wall. All of these are amusing, but slight...Things pick up with "Corridor," by Robak, who later directed the wonderfully twisted BABY BLOOD (hacked of its sanguinary spillage and released in the US as THE EVIL WITHIN). In this, a potential buyer checks out a house and is dropped into a life-threatening endurance test -- hanging from ropes and dodging knives, razor blades and a flat iron. Also worth a mention is Assal & Hudson's "T.V. Buster," in which a married pair of couch potatoes become the abused subjects of every show they watch, and call in a TV exorcist. By far, the oddest (and best) of the lot are from Piqeur & Maddeddu's happily sick sense of humor -- whether it's with a shut-in who covers his apartment walls with mutilated flies, or a man who's hung on a wall and interrogated, as pieces of his body are chopped away. A fave is their "Sculpture Physique," featuring a man who allows himself to be beaten repeatedly about the face in the name of art. The silliest, most pointless idea is to have each segment bookended by stark, b&w footage panning across an endless line of blind persons. (Huh?) Little dialogue is spoken throughout, and though never very gory, that's because the filmmakers are more interested in their own brand of tripped-out, arthouse-fantasy psychedelia. Considering some of the turnabout/twist endings, this often feels like a Frogland spin-off of Rod Serling's NIGHT GALLERY. In 1994, Piquer, Robak, Assal and Hudson reunited for a five-part, feature-length anthology entitled PARANO, N'AYEZ PAS PEUR D'EN RIRE, once again tackling the subject of paranoia.

© 1995 by Steven Puchalski.