Trick or Treat 2021: Two Cents Does Battle with CALTIKI — THE INHUMAN MONSTER

Two Cents is an original column akin to a book club for films. The Cinapse team will program films and contribute our best, most insightful, or most creative thoughts on each film using a maximum of 200 words each. Guest writers and fan comments are encouraged, as are suggestions for future entries to the column. Join us as we share our two cents on films we love, films we are curious about, and films we believe merit some discussion.

The Pick

There can be no discussion of modern horror without at least touching on the great Italian director, Mario Bava.

A former cinematographer and production designer, Bava created some of the most gorgeous horror films ever made, movies so artfully composed you couldn’t look away even as the blood poured in gallons. Some of Bava’s major achievements include the Gothic masterpiece Black Sunday, the terrifying anthology Black Sabbath (which was a major influence on Pulp Fiction, believe it or not), the proto-slasher Blood and Black Lace, and the lurid Twitch of the Death Nerve (also known as Bay of Blood, by the lame), a giallo film so overstuffed with wild kills that decades later the Friday the 13th series was still ripping it off.

Bava’s directorial career got off to a somewhat disputed start. He began work on Caltiki — The Inhuman Monster, as a cinematographer and special effects supervisor, only to take over production when director Riccardo Freda left the set. Freda claimed he left with only a few days remaining in production, while Bava claimed that the shoot was incredibly difficult on Freda and he abandoned ship with weeks still to go, making Bava the predominant author of the film.

Like other disputed movies, like Poltergeist, the answer to “Who directed this movie?” probably comes down to a matter of perspective, and the debate is so long-running that there will be probably never be a clear answer.

Caltiki is an odd duck no matter who directed. The film seems to be cribbing from The Creature from the Black Lagoon early on, as a group of explorers wade through the jungles of Mexico for clues to a lost civilization, only to stumble into deadly danger.

They inadvertently unleash the creature of a non-person variety, leading to a deadly race against time to find a way to destroy the monster, or become its next meal.

Next Week’s Pick:

For the final week of Trick or Treat 2021, we’re closing things out with one of the most purely fun monsters flicks of the 90s. Stephen Sommers went on to great success with The Mummy franchise, but directly before rebooting Universal’s monster brand, he helmed another less fondly received horror film; this one set at sea and dealing with a Lovecraftian threat from the abyss. Deep Rising has become much more embraced over the years, having much the same relentlessly fun action-comedy vibe as The Mummy, with an eclectic ensemble cast and the freedom afforded by an R rating.

Would you like to be a guest in next week’s Two Cents column? Simply watch and send your under-200-word review to twocents(at) anytime before midnight on Thursday!

The Team

Justin Harlan:

While I suspect my cultured fellow Cinapsians watched this classic monster film in the original Italian with subtitles, I partook in the English dub of Caltiki: The Immortal Monster. Having access to the Arrow release of the film allowed me to be free to choose and 9 out of 10 times, I’ll choose to keep my film viewing and reading as separate activities. It’s simply a preference of mine and, since I’m also in recovery mode from a recent hospital stay, the energy to read without getting drowsy is something I just don’t have right now. [Editor’s note: lead actor John Merivale’s dialogue appears to have been recorded in English and dubbed in Italian, so much like spaghetti western productions, the Italian and English versions are equally valid — Austin].

That said, this is a standard lower budget monster movie of the era. The sets and script alike are not all that convincing, and, the era’s melodramatic flairs are all on display. Sadly, the flairs of Bava’s influence on the film’s direction are not as present as I’d like to see. It’s not a horrible watch, especially at a brisk 76 minutes. But alas…

Verdict: TRICK (@thepaintedman)

Brendan Foley:

What I really dug about this one is just how much it does recall the aesthetic and general vibe of the likes of Creature from the Black Lagoon, or the other “shot on a backlot” studio monster pictures…right up until Caltiki starts to eat people at which this film’s true, lurid nature is allowed to stand tall, proud, and bleeding from a dozen different places.

Bava would one-up himself over and over again, leaving Caltiki feeling like something of a false-start. But you can see his later genius indicated in many of the early, incredibly moody shots with striking compositions, and with the ease with gore and mayhem, rendered with such painstaking attention to detail and loving care that the annihilated human bodies becomes twisted art projects. It’s often sickening, and yet you never especially want to look away.

Verdict: TREAT (@TheTrueBrendanF)

Austin Vashaw:

Caltiki is admittedly a bit slow and has some considerable downtime between the “good parts” but boy does it get cooking.

It’s one of the earliest films to employ lots of gruesome body horror, and it remains effective. The blob-like creature obliterates flesh on contact, and we’re treated to several examples of this as faces and hands are deliquesced down to the bone.

Filippo Sanjust and Riccardo Freda’s B-movie script, full of contemporary tropes (The Blob, jungle expeditions, atomic age sci-fi) is elevated by the gorgeous style and cinematography of Mario Bava. Nocturnal scenes in particular are bathed in moody lighting and shadows that provide an unusual sense beauty and drama to the matinee subject matter.

Verdict: TREAT! (@VforVashaw)

Trick: 1
Treat: 2

Verdict: TREAT!

Further Reading:

Next week’s pick:

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