There aren't enough German horror films around these days, or anthology horror films, or horror films that use the theme of deeply worrying New Ageist cults as a springboard for bloodstained full-on movie terror. So it's a delight to report that here we have a film that's all three, as well as being absolutely cracking piece of nastiness into the bargain. A tiny budgeted modern EuroHorror thoroughly deserving of the attention of fans of extreme cinema everywhere, TEARS OF KALI starts off with a prologue sequence set in a grim room in Poona, India in 1983. Various cult members are lying on filthy mattresses and are busy throwing up, having fits or just screaming. The scene culminates in a naked girl cutting her own eyelids off in a scene Lucio Fulci would have been proud of and, dare I say it, probably wouldn't have done anywhere near as well or as unpleasantly as we get to experience here. It's a grim shocking moment and more than sets the scene for what is about to follow.
The cult is called the Taylor-Eriksson group and the film flashes forward to modern day to show us what has happened to three of its members in three respective stories. The first concerns a girl incarcerated in an asylum after being accused of murdering one of the cult's members who has set up his own group in Berlin and has been trying to practice the cult's methods. We hear a lot about 'deep meditation' and 'journeying into the darkest regions of the soul' before the story jumps down our throats with some superbly atmospheric out of body horror. The second story finds a young offender undergoing rehabilitation therapy by a former cult member whose treatment involves forcing the young man to cut off his own skin. A genuine two-hander this one, with a gruesome and intense finale that is wholly horrible without the excessive grue ever becoming too silly or over the top. The final story is about a faith healer who manages to exorcise the evil within one of the cult members. Unfortunately it's still lurking around the building when he's due to leave and after it’s killed his wife he and his patient end up trapped in the cellar as the thing tries to get in. A tiny coda ends the movie on a downbeat note.
I really liked TEARS OF KALI, but it's a film that isn't going to be everyone's cup of tea. The violence is often excessive but never cartoonish, and the tone is deadly serious but without the misanthropic nihilism that we have seen in French EuroHorrors like MARTYRS and THE HORDE. I think it's always a mark of great achievement for a film like this if you end up totally ignoring the tiny budget and glarey shot-on-video feel because you're so absorbed by what's actually going on, and that was definitely the case here. One of the commonest complaints levelled against anthology pictures is their uneven feel, but by having a very strong linking theme and consistently graphic disturbing and upsetting storylines the movie avoids this pitfall as well. It treats its subject of what might happen to the members of a properly sinister cult in a fascinating and original way, and makes that premise the star of the movie, such that when it finished I found myself very keen to know what other members of the cult might be up to now. TEARS OF KALI 2? I'll be first in line.