I had cause to look up a few old Marilyn Manson videos from the band's breakthrough Antichrist Superstar album. In the process I re-watched Cryptorchid. It's a low budget but beautiful affair but I always found it the most unsettling of what are, to be frank, a bunch of really quite unnerving videos. Shot on stark black and white high contrast film it smacks of found-footage and feels like a nightmarish fusion of images from Roswell, WWII documentaries and Häxan. It epitomises a kind of low-budget low-fi grand guignol film I remember from the 90s.
A bit if delving revealed that Cryptorchid was shot by an experimental film maker and includes scenes from another work of his - Begotten. And if you thought the music video was terrifying, you really haven't seen anyhing yet. To put it charitably, Elias Merhige's 70 minute feuge is a difficult watch.
This is very much a work about feeling. The deliberately opaque narrative plays second fiddle to haunting, grainy images where mud, blood and bodily fluids all become black splatters amid cadavers contorted by spastic movements. You have an overwhelming sense of being a voyeur in a world that you don't understand. The amorphous, robed, monk-like figures capture the terror of the creature MR James crafted so deftly in Oh, Whistle, and I'll Come to You, My Lad. They limp over a pitted, broken, desolate landscape that could be the Somme. Since we are in the business of nostaligia and memory, it's apt that Begotten evokes the sense of a world we have forgotten - a brutal, mythic dark age captured on vintage equipment and preserved in silver nitrate for discovery in some future era. As the last line in Cryptorchid suggests, perhaps 'the time has come for bitter things'.
The whole thing is available on YouTube and it's below. I must confess I had to also read the plot so I didn't get completely lost.