I’m so happy tonight. I thought I would be reviewing the 1971 José Ramón Larraz movie Deviation for the first time tonight, but it turns out that Deviation is a movie I’ve been looking for for years. I first rented it in 93 or 94, when I was living in my first apartment at college with a couple of guys I went to high school with. We used to get fixated on lines from movies that only we found funny, and this movie had one line that we repeated over and over that year, “We did our best to try and find a way to fix the car.” To be said in a proper British accent. Besides that, all I could remember was that the name of the movie started with a “D,”and that part of the plot involved a young woman not being allowed to leave a creepy house with a bunch of weird people in it.
I am absurdly happy about this reunion between me and Deviation. I know you may not relate to how hilarious I found, and still find, this particular movie, but I know you all relate to remembering a movie from long ago, one you don’t have enough information to identify, and the happiness you feel when you finally do find it. It’s like having an old friend get in touch out of the blue, only with a movie you don’t have to be sad when you find out that your friend is now jaded, rude, has wrongheaded political beliefs, and is going to try to mack on you.
Where was I? Deviation is one of those uniquely early 70s exploitation movies that shows the worst possible portrait of hippies. I’m talking about people who hang around in the woods, smoke pot, have gross orgies, and sometimes try to freak out squares by forcing them at gun or knife point to join in, as if anyone in the history of ever was forced at gunpoint to get high. It’s not a horror movie, and it’s not a porno, and it’s probably not a reflection of how the director actually feels about hippies, it’s just plain exploitation seemingly for its own sake. “Look at what the young people of today are up to, with their deadly marijuana and their discount love. Wouldn’t you be ashamed of yourself if you wished you could join in? WELL YOU CAN’T! God, you’re so gross and old and un-hip, kill yourself, because just look at what this world is coming to with these kids today…”
At the beginning, a woman runs through the woods and the scene is intercut with a man angrily nailing some boards across a door. This is never explained. Then, after the opening credits, Olivia and her married, older boyfriend, Paul, are speeding through the woods in his car when they hit a guy in a white poncho. Immediately a guy appears at the passenger window and asks what happened; they are taken in by weirdo siblings Julian (an amateur taxidermist and hobbyist embalmer) and murderous, repressed Rebecca, who drug them with a warm milk mickey and promise to help find someone to fix the car in the morning. Oh yes, the siblings are the door nailer and woods runner, not that it matters.
Olivia is passed out very soon, but Paul took some uppers earlier and he stays awake. He hears some weird noises, goes exploring, and soon finds himself dead after being forced into a drug and sex happening. Then Olivia wakes up in the morning and is drawn into the party life of the house; she does not escape until the end of the movie when things come to a violent end, but she really doesn’t mind being there at all until she realizes that Paul didn’t just go back to London. There are a couple of other scenes, including a subplot that goes nowhere involving a creepy psychic aunt of Julian and Rebecca’s, but there basically is no story other than drugs and orgy and killing. We never find out why Rebecca is so damn crazy. There should have been more done with Julian’s hobbies, but he was too busy fucking Olivia and getting her hooked on heroin to pursue them. Maybe that’s the story here; I don’t know.
I’m kidding, of course; the story is obviously What Is Wrong With Julian and Rebecca’s Relationship, and it’s a product of a very self-indulgent time in filmaking when it was considered sufficient to simply make inferences. Now we’ve seen so many movies about taboo subjects that we know What Is Wrong in the first five minutes, but then, I suppose it was groundbreaking to both show the taboos and be artfully evasive about them at the same time. It also provided an opportunity to sigh with obviously feigned patience and barely disguised impatience and say that sometimes you just have to let art flow over you, man. Or something.
Why do I like this movie? Well, it moves so slowly that it is easy to find absurdity in the poor acting and the damn weirdness of it all. I probably wouldn’t like it at all if I hadn’t seen it both times with funny people who also like making comments all the way through a slow but entertaining movie. Also, the psychedelic music is good, and for whatever reason I love watching something that’s taken from a bad print with lots of scratches. Also, as I realized tonight, it’s a clear influence on another favorite, Buio Omega. I don’t know why I didn’t realize that before, as I’d also seen that one in the early 90s, and I did remember its name, although I liked Deviation more at the time. I can’t recommend it to you, but if you are going to like Deviation, you already know it. It’s a horrible movie, and not long enough.