[review by JA Kerswell] Shock: Diversão Diabólica
SHOCK: DIVERSÃO DIABÓLICA (1984) (which literally translates from Portuguese as SHOCK: DIABOLIC FUN) is largely unknown outside of its native Brazil. Featuring a classic set up of a group of young people trapped inside a remote music venue with a psychotic killer, it features many of the motifs familiar to those well versed in North American slashers of the late 1970s and early 1980s. This despite a director who claims never to have seen a slasher movie before making it. At a trim 77 minute running time, SHOCK: DIVERSÃO DIABÓLICA is a taught, suspenseful and claustrophobic thriller - with ideas beyond its exploitation roots.
The plot is lethal in its simplicity. A few members of a band that has just played a gig agree to hang around until morning; when their musical equipment is due to be collected. Two other young couples have paired off for sex and they all find themselves locked inside the venue with a killer who has taken the only keys for the building. They realise the danger they are in after discovering the bloody body of a woman in a kitchen cupboard. Quickly barricading themselves into a room, their tormentor shreds their nerves further by repeatedly playing their musical instruments. The killer also displays a sick sense of humour by placing the body of a girl he has just murdered next to her sleeping boyfriend - and framing him for her murder. Can they figure out who the real killer is and will they live to see daybreak?
Shot around Brazil's largest city, and one of the five largest in the world, São Paulo, the film feature, among others: Aldine Müller - one of the country's biggest sex symbols in the 70s and 80s via starring roles in sexy comedies - and Taumaturgo Ferreira - seen in the internationally-released SUBWAY TO THE STARS (1987). However, what sets SHOCK: DIVERSÃO DIABÓLICA apart somewhat is its almost fetishistic depiction of walking feet. The killer is almost only depicted by his distinctive, military style black leather boots. The film's approach brings to mind the extra footage shot for the video releases of Brian Clemens' THRILLER TV series (1973–1976). Which added opening scenes, typically only showing walking feet, to bulk up the running time to approach feature length. Another inspiration, it has been suggested, has been the Italian giallo.
Here the camera follows the shoes of the partygoers, and other characters, but it is always the killer's boots that stand out. It is clearly a device to obscure the identity of the person menacing the group, as the film ostensibly sets itself up as a whodunnit. Although, ultimately, it doesn’t give any firm answers as to who the assailant is and leaves that question pretty open ended. It seems that the director intended to make a political point, as the ostensible rescuers that turn up in the last five minutes all have military style boots on and the person they accuse does not. At one point in the film the group appear more fearful of the police discovering their drugs than the killer that lurks beyond their barricaded door. Reportedly, the director consulted a real psychologist to garner how individuals would react in such a situation. Contemporary Brazilian reviewers have pointed out that Correia was probably making a coded attack on the repressive dictatorship that fully ended with the reinstatement of democracy in Brazil in 1985 (the year after this film was released). Where SHOCK: DIVERSÃO DIABÓLICA works best is during its suspenseful middle section, where the characters hide from the killer and discuss their fears and hopes for the future. Although their subsequent bickering does wear a bit thin after a while.
Unlike many North American slashers of around the same time, SHOCK: DIVERSÃO DIABÓLICA doesn’t feature much of the red stuff. Most of the death scenes feature strangulations. This despite much being made of the killer stealing all the knives from the kitchen - which frustrates a bout of sandwich making that threatens to become a major plot strand. Even the killer makes a sandwich at one point! On the other hand, the film features ample nudity, soft-core sex scenes (even implied anal sex) and even a brief bit of nasty sexualised violence. It has been suggested that the military-led censorship at the time was more lenient with nudity than on screen violence, which could explain this. The fact that Correia was able to slip his contempt for the dictatorship right under their censorious noses must have been especially sweet.
Sadly - and quite inexcusably - the film features a brutal real-life killing of a rat with a knife. The scene in question features a woman who hides under a bed to escape the killer, who is given away by her fear of rodents. It is so similar to the scene in FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 2 (1981) that it is difficult to believe that someone involved in the production - if not the director - was not at least somewhat versed in the then popular subgenre. Another scene that is suspiciously similar is one where a woman is attacked by the killer hiding in the backseat of the car she gets into; which is almost identical to the attack on Annie in John Carpenter's HALLOWEEN (1978).
A bizarre touch is the extra pair of eyes to the action of Paul McCartney, whose shocked face appears on a t-shirt worn by one of the characters throughout. Quite what he would have thought about his unwitting cameo is anyone's guess.
SHOCK: DIVERSÃO DIABÓLICA received a limited theatrical release in Brazil in 1984 and won a number of awards. It was released on video in Brazil via the CIC label, but - as far as I know - it didn't receive any kind of oficial release beyond Brazil's borders. Back in the mists of time, a kind soul sent me a VHS tape of the film. This must have been over twenty years ago (thank you to whoever that was!), but due to the fact it played in black-and-white (due to the different video standards) and was in Portuguese (without subs) it was almost impossible to work out what was happening.
Click here to read the exclusive new interview with director Jair Correia about SHOCK: DIVERSÃO DIABÓLICA and his career, conducted by Brazilian Pop Culture Historian and Film Critic Marco Antonio Freitas.
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female: 3 / male: 3
2) Female strangled and slashed with knife
3) Male strangled with knife
4) Female strangled
5) Female strangled
6) Male found dead