Sunday, February 26, 2012

Loor Da Bala (Pakistan, 1999)


I keep telling myself that I’ll eventually reach some kind of tipping point where these Pashto language horror films won’t seem so strange to me anymore, but Loor Da Bala most definitely isn’t it. In fact, Loor Da Bala brings the strange on a couple of different levels. It’s guaranteed to be just about the most violent, grotesque and sleazy thing that you’ve ever seen, which would make you think that it at least wouldn’t be boring, yet it somehow manages to be that as well. Thankfully, those who are easily offended can occupy themselves during the slow bits by making angry phone calls to the VCD’s distributor, Sangar, whose phone number is helpfully plastered on screen for most of the film’s running time. I’m sure they’d love to hear from you.

To give you some sense of what we’re dealing with here, Loor Da Bala makes something of a theme out of people being sexed while supine. A woman is raped while unconscious, then turns into a monster and tears her attacker’s intestines out. A male protagonist is subjected to similar treatment by a “comic relief” gay character while he lies in a drugged stupor. A trio of globular college girls innocently knead at one another’s breasts while sleeping (as you’ll do). And finally, in a sequence that really puts Loor Da Bala on the world cinema map, a voluptuous female sasquatch-like creature lies chained to a table, moaning and writhing in a combination of fear and ecstasy as a pair of bears (i.e. men in matted looking bear costumes) nuzzle at all of her areas, until she finally breaks free to kung fu kick both of them into the middle of next week. This last was literally the weirdest thing I’ve seen yet this year -- and, yes, I know it’s only February.



The film features a duo of male protagonists played by Shahin Khan and, of course, Badar Munir. I say “of course” because Munir’s career as a star of Pashto cinema goes all the way back to 1970’s Yousuf Khan Sher Bano, the first feature ever produced in the Pashto language. In the ensuing years he came to fulfill the same role in Pashto cinema that Sultan Rahi did within Punjabi films, that of being the beefy, angry, yelling guy who stars in every movie, with a body of work that ultimately came to total over 400 films. Munir also worked in Urdu and Punjabi movies, and reportedly starred alongside Rahi on a number of occasions -- in films that immediately pushed their way to the top of my “must see” list the moment I learned of them.

As far as plot, the movie seems to have a couple of parallel narratives going on which I can’t say for sure, without the aid of subtitles, really interweave or relate to each other in any way. It could just be that, despite its horror trappings, Loor Da Bala couldn’t escape the requirement that it include, like most Pashto films, a storyline involving wounded masculine honor and corresponding bloody vengeance. Thus is provided a gang of scurrilous thugs who, in the course of terrorizing Khan and Munir’s village, kill off some of their woman folk, as a result setting the stage for much gunplay and scenes of men piercing, puncturing and perforating each other with various swords and daggers amid aggrieved throaty screaming.



But, of course, those are all things that you can see in any Pashto film. What you can’t see in any Pashto film is a pair of hirsute, mother and daughter (I think) hellbeasts who transform into dog, bird or human form by way of a variety of deeply bizarre psychedelic optical effects. Said hellbeasts then feast on the entrails of their victims -- that is, until Badar Munir slices off the head and hands of the younger one, who nonetheless fights on for a good few minutes despite being reduced to little more than a collection of blood squirting stumps. This affront puts the snaggletoothed mom-beast on a personal mission of vengeance against our heroes, one that can only be stopped by liberal applications of equal parts portly man martial arts and forceful readings of Islamic scripture.

In those moments when none of the admittedly exciting events described above are taking place, Loor Da Bala puts an earnest effort into becoming tedious through the application of a truly mindboggling number of not at all interestingly staged musical numbers featuring the usual assortment of rump-heavy women. And where that fails, the film courts inertia through sheer repetition. One or two crazed fight scenes might be plenty entertaining, but when all are pitched at the level of an apocalyptic final confrontation, it becomes a bit dismaying when they are followed by a dozen more. The same can even be said of the monster attack scenes, as wonderful as each is in itself. During the last hour, I on numerous occasions thought that the beast had been vanquished, only to have it come around again five minutes later like a bus on rush hour schedule.

Yet, as sleepy as things may get,  Loor Da Bala can always be relied upon to snap us to attention with one of its frequent moments of truly stunning seediness. Such is the scene in which the beast, having taken fetching womanly form, fellates the barrel of Shahid Khan’s pistol, sucking the bullets from the chamber as he sweatily derps out watching her. Also promoting wakefulness are the movie’s many aforementioned reminders of all the unsavory fiddling that might befall us should we nod off. The end result is a type of enforced sleep deprivation that might just make Loor Da Bala the rare film that violates international torture conventions. You have been warned.

 Again, that number is…

5 comments:

memsaab said...

Think I'll leave this one alone :)

Todd said...

I think that's a wise choice.

Shit Movie Fest said...

This all looks like a Bad Acid Trip! I might have to track it down

Idrian said...

Hi Todd. Do you have any Pinoy movies lined up for review? If you're in the feel of it, you may look up the movie "Apoy sa Dibdib ng Samar" (literally, "Fire in the Chest of Samar"). One scene from this movie has become a famous meme in the Philippines.

Todd said...

SMF: I dunno, if you're interested in sampling this kind of Pashto insanity, I might suggest something like Da Khwar Lasme Spogmay instead. It's no easier to find, but it's definitely more worth the time.

Idrian: Thanks. I'll take that under advisement.