Directed by Domiziano Cristopharo.
Written by Andrea Cavaletto.
Starring Emanuele Delia, Karen Lynn, Chris Milewski, Chiara Pavoni, Simone Tolu
A man (Emanuele Delia) wakes up in decrepit building, ties to a chair and gagged. In front of him is an attractive woman (Karen Lynn), who instructs a drug addict (Chris Milewski) to torture him for her. The addict continues to do so and as the heinous torture unfolds, we find out the story that brings these three people together.
Right off the bat, I have to warn you, XPIATION is the epitome of a torture porn film. It’s literally a man strapped to a chair being tortured. I know that will turn off a lot of people, myself usually included, but I also know that this is a corner of horror that exists because there are fans of this. No judgments here. If you dig this, that’s cool. But when I’m reviewing Unearthed Films I find it important to let folks know what they’re getting into from the get go.
XPIATION is a creative way of spelling expiation or the act of making amends or reparation for guilt or wrongdoing; atonement. And that’s what this story is all about. What surprised me with XPIATION is that there is a very strong story at play here. The interesting aspect is that, while these three people are presented, it’s made unclear as to who is the protagonist here. Who are we to sympathize with? Who was wronged? Who do we root for? We open with the torture, so one might imagine the guy in the chair is the person to relate to, but is he? What I liked about this film is that this is kept ambiguous and the more the backstory is revealed, the more things get very complicated.
What attracts some folks to films like XPIATION is the effects and gore. It’s toe-curlingly potent here as steel wool, a hot iron, and various other tools are used to dismantle the man in the chair to his most basic of parts. For the most part, the effects are convincing. It made me wince, especially when it is made clear that a bit of time has passed between one stage of the torture to the next, and that is reflected painfully well in the effects. It’s convincing. Not over the top. But it is going to make you wince.
But aside from the realistic effects and gore (which all of these types of films excel at), XPIATION is more of a metaphorical film than most films of this kind. It delves into the psyche of these characters. There are characters the represent moods, feelings, and personal demons. There are scenes where the addict is torturing the man in the chair, but later we see that this may not be the case as the veil is pulled up a little to reveal he may be doing something else. The final reveal really plays up this aspect, but I won’t reveal exactly what it is here. If you’re brave, you might want to experience it for yourself as XPIATION is much deeper than one might expect.