A nipple is sliced off. A crotch is stabbed. Plastic, glove-clad hands creep beneath someone’s skin and stretch, smother, rip. A man’s stomach is slashed with shards of glass; later, he pulls the shards out. These are just a handful of the countless atrocities that occur and recur throughout Hélène Cattet and Bruno Forzani’s claustrophobic scarefest The Strange Color of Your Body’s Tears.
Torture and S&M fetishists will savor its every knife-plunging, blood-splattering, leather-crinkling moment. Everyone else should stay far, far away. The scant plot concerns businessman Klaus Tange’s fruitless search for his wife, who has seemingly been abducted by one of many horrifying inhabitants in the couple’s Gothic apartment complex. What follows is an incoherent orgy of gore-movie theatrics: ominous phone messages, creepy doppelgängers, apparitions in the walls, a clamorous soundtrack of screams, unsheathed knives, and the slitting of various arteries.
The one semi-fresh wrinkle is that it’s seldom clear who’s doing what to whom. Cattet and Forzani haven’t met a glossy horror-film trick they don’t like, and while some of the imagery is showy and irritating (constant eyeball close-ups; needless shifting between red, green, and fluorescent lighting; split-screen shots that purposefully mismatch people’s eyes and lips), they manage a few grotesque show-stoppers.
In the most memorable sequence, the camera burrows through a gaping head gash into another dimension. But without characters whose fates we care about, nor fully comprehend, even the most visceral shocks are just that: impressive moments with no lingering terror. The movie seems as willfully abstract as its title (which is translated from the French word for “tears,” as in crying, and not the more fitting definition of “tears.”)