Prolific Italian filmmaker Domiziano Cristopharo (you can read our interview with him here) is back with the third installment in the Trilogy Of Death called Xpiation, with the first two installments being Torment and American Guinea Pig: Sacrifice. Cristopharo has this brilliant artistry to his film work. It has a very theatrical and almost stage-like presence. I could see myself in a lavish Opera hall in Italy as one of his productions came to life before me. Xpiation has this theater hall quality to it and a dramatic play of reprehensible perversion, revenge and manipulation with underlying political tones.
I had the opportunity to chat on social media with Cristopharo as to what political subjects were a part of Xpiation. In my eyes, some of it was obvious as it unfolded onscreen, but the visionary director filled in the gaps for me. Cristopharo told me how modern Italy has become a breeding ground for Nazism/Fascism, and he plays this out in Xpiation with the characters. Simone Tolu, who plays a character credited simply as The Torturer, has been manipulated due to his ignorance and drug addiction by Her (Chiara Pavoni: P.O.E. 4: The Black Cat 2017), a lifeless and emotionless character sitting in a chair watching her dog (played by Tolu) torture her victim as she captures it all on video.
In the beginning of the film, we don’t know Her motivation, but as Xpiation progresses, we find out why she has Latino Guy (played by Emanuele D’elia) tied to a chair and ball gagged in an isolated dungeon, all the while The Torturer obeys her every sick, twisted and perverted command. We get plenty of flashbacks of Her life, and we also delve into the poor diluted mind of Tolu’s character. The Torturer has hallucinations of two demon drug dealers due to the LSD he is constantly fed as he carries out and inflicts torture on Latino Guy.
Xpiation is shot beautifully with a popping color scheme, great musical score and reliability on three single characters to tell its story. It’s a wonderful looking ad artistic vision, but it is also a stomach churner of deep rooted evil and manipulative drudgery. All of the torture is captured in up close detail and reminds me of the endurance test which was Torment. Latino Guy is tortured in such demeaning and deplorable ways. His face is graphically slashed open, steel wool is used to rub off his skin, burned with an iron, his testicles are crushed with a hammer and his anus is violated with the same hammer, all caught with a cinematography that may be a little too in depth for some viewers… and the list goes on. Tolu’s character carries this all out while literally and figuratively feeding from the teat of his female master.
Cristopharo’s films have always fascinated me because they are very different in scope. His European productions are intriguing and always artistic even when subjected to more extreme and tasteless themes. I would easily place this up there with Doll Syndrome as one of his most twisted directorial visions yet, and I highly recommend it to those who are seeking more unique content when looking for something gruesome to wet their indie gore appetite. Xpiation is a modern Italian indie marvel for those who can stomach it.