Long before D.I.Y. or S.O.V. films began to crowd video shelves in the late-’80s, and before anyone could simply pick up a reasonably-priced camcorder in either the Betamax or S-VHS – that’s super-VHS! – formats, video store owner, collector and MONSTER BIS editor Norbert-Georges Moutier took the D.I.Y. aesthetic to the next level by creating OGROFF (1983), an almost indescribable – and extremely gory – ‘homage’ of sorts to some of his favourite horror films. Shot on grainy Super 8mm, Moutier’s film was quite difficult to see for many years before the digital age came around, but in 2012 it was finally released on French DVD – in a Special 30th Anniversary Edition, no less! – by Artus Films. However, in late 2016, the Canadian label Videonomicon also rolled-out the red carpet treatment for OGROFF, with a new-and-improved transfer and much-more-literate English subtitles.
From the onset, this would appear to be yet another mindless slasher flick, with Ogroff (played by Moutier himself) wandering aimlessly through the Forêt domaniale d’Orléans just south of Paris, gorily – and haphazardly – killing anyone who trespasses upon “his” territory. However, as Moutier’s threadbare narrative progresses, it becomes increasingly more delirious and unpredictable, involving everything from homemade sacrifices, shuffling zombies, vampires, a malevolent evil force reminiscent of that in Sam Raimi’s THE EVIL DEAD (1982), plus even an unexpected cameo from longtime Jess Franco regular, Howard Vernon.
Appearing like some unhinged farmer dressed in a woolen vest, rubber boots and a distinctive face-mask, Ogroff dispatches most of his victims with his trusty axe. Blood and gore are the predominant focus, and in one prolonged scene, Ogroff has an extended chainsaw duel with an unsuspecting farmer (film historian and former Jess Franco collaborator, Alain Petit), who ends up having his legs gorily sawed off. In another drawn-out – but also most welcome – scene, Ogroff frantically destroys a Citroën 2CV as he desperately tries to get at another would-be victim cowering inside it.
Sloppily put together, OGROFF is unlike anything you’re ever likely to encounter, and is all the better for it. Dialogue and general cohesiveness are kept to a minimum, but Videonomicon’s newly-improved and considerably-more-accurate English subs help in explaining Ogroff’s “motivations” a little more. Besides the many gory bits, one of the highlights is Jean Richard’s droning, minimalist electronic score – which also includes Giuliano Sorgini’s haunting sound-effects from Jorge Grau’s excellent The LIVING DEAD AT THE MANCHESTER MORGUE (a.k.a. LET SLEEPING CORPSES LIE, 1974) – along with some one-of-a-kind ’80s synth pop. Director Moutier went on to direct a number of other homemade ‘trash’ epics, including ALIEN PLATOON (1992) and the unforgettable TREPANATOR (1992), both of which also included appearances from cult director, Jean Rollin. Incidentally, that latter title, plus Rollin’s career as a whole, are given some lengthy coverage in the latest massive (360pp!) issue of MONSTER! magazine (#32), so by all means grab yourself a copy!
Artus’ region-free DVD included an entire host of interesting special features – which, unfortunately, were not English-friendly – including an on-camera interview with director Moutier, a poster and still gallery and “Ogroff – 30 Years Later”, a lengthy, ‘making-of’ documentary featuring interviews with many of the zombie extras. It was a nice DVD with some surprising extras, but Videonomicon’s newest DVD (encoded only for Region 1 players, due to licensing) is better still, featuring a brand-new “2016 Colour Graded Remaster”, which improves image detail and restores some of the (presumably) original colour schemes. Excellent work all around, which makes for an even better viewing experience. But for you purists out there, Videonomicon were also mindful enough to include the “Original Tape Transfer” too. For a comparison, click here. Presented in its original French-language version – which, to be honest, only includes a handful of actual dialogue – with optional English, French and Spanish subtitle options, the audio is as good as can be expected for such a micro-budgeted, almost 35-year old film. Other extras include a “Home Video Trailer”, DVD-ROM content showcasing some promotional art, and a colourfully-designed liner notes booklet with writing from Andy Bolus and Bleeding Skull’s Joseph A. Ziemba.
OGROFF is a real curiosity, a potpourri of ideas and tributes to better films that is messily thrown-together, yet somehow, someway – through sheer madness, perhaps? – it sustains an originality that is unparalleled. Limited to only 600 copies, which is evenly divided between the choice of two alternate cover designs, OGROFF is sure to sell out. So don’t delay and order yours from Videonomicon today! OGROFF is well worth your time. It’s unforgettable.