Starring: Jessica Drake, Xander Corvus, Asa Akira
Director: Brad Armstrong
Synopsis: After a robbery gone wrong, Tanya finds herself in a coma-like state, which has her cross into an eerie Underworld, a dream-like purgatory where lost souls go to find out their fate. Along the way she meets a cast of mystical characters, who help guide her on a journey through the Underworld. - Via Adult Empire.com
Why it is Notable: It was featured on the documentary X-Rated: The Greatest Adult Movies of All Time and won 15 awards in 2014
"Get on your knees and beg for your life."
Welcome to the next bit of Lilith Likes to Watch Halloween Trick & Treat. Tonight we're featuring a high-concept, low effort offering from Brad Armstrong about life, death and everything in between. I had a sneaking suspicion this might be bad so I was prepared with an adult beverage.
I heard about Underworld on the documentary X-Rated: The Greatest Adult Movies of All Time. I was intrigued by the visuals, and the concept. They made it sound really profound. It was instantly on the list for a Halloween feature. I was looking forward to this movie for nearly a year. I needed these visuals.
But over the years I've seen visual marvels and I know what pornography is capable of looking like and sounding like. This? This just doesn't do it for me.
The movie starts and we just jump right into sex. There's not much to say about it except the sound mixing or editing or whatever is really weird. There's no music, but the vocalizations are too loud. My laptop master volume was low and I was wearing ear phones and I still felt like the sound was passing through my earphones and out into the room.
At first, Jessica Drake is a better actress in this than she is in Lost Love. During the non-sex scenes, she and Steven St. Croix have chemistry. In the parking garage they're held at gun point. Tanya, played by Jessica Drake, fights back and manages to tear the mask off one of the muggers. She is shot and her boyfriend Brian gets her to the hospital.
In the hospital, Doctor Collins, played by director Brad Armstrong, sneaks into a closet with nurse Julie, played by Presley Hart, and they fuck. The scene itself is fine. The problem, for me, was that it could be in any porno ever. And I'm not a fan of Brad Armstrong's oral technique. The scene just reeked of "I'm the director and I want to fuck this girl". It kills the tension the movie had built up so far. It could and should have been left on the cutting room floor. Nothing of value would have been lost except for another scene to masturbate to.
Tanya is wheeled into an operating room and the doctors begin to work on her. They say words like "innubate". That's not a thing. You mean "intubate".
Tanya wakes in a black void where she's greeted by the tall, dangerous behatted figure Slice, played by Xander Corvus, who seems to be having a ball. Slice takes her through the darkness to a figure named Mecca, played by Julia Ann. Mecca tells her to fight to live and to move forward. Tanya walks off and Mecca gives Slice a blowjob.
This movie still had some good will with me. I liked that the rig around the hospital bed was all twisted up around Mecca in the underworld. It's the bare minimum of parallel symbolism but as I've recently adopted the personal mantra of "You work with what you have to get what you want", well, I admire the effort. Good for them.
The problem is that the movie's lighting and editing is flat and uninspired. It's always top-down white light with no strong shadows or atmosphere. This film would have benefited enormously from colour filters or lens gels. This movie wants to look like a goth horror show but I've seen it done better in nightclubs. Still, the costumes and make up is pretty impressive but the harsh lighting does it no favours.
Tanya moves on and she meets Scarlet, played by Asa Akira. She represents the blood flowing through Tanya's veins. Here, the set design is a little more creative, with red strings threading across the backdrop and crimson waterfall splashing into a pool. Asa Akira looks good. I like her hair, outfit and makeup. They’re fucked by two Blood Studs and I was reminded of the devil male dancers in Elvira's Las Vegas show from Elvira Mistress of the Dark.
Scarlet gives Tanya a cloak and tells her it will protect her. Around this time I'm wondering what sort of dangers she's supposed to be looking out for. Mecca told her to be wary of others, how they're not all helpful. Except Tanya never encounters anyone who wants to harm her until the end. Sure, some of these creepy customers aren't the nicest, and can be rough or sadistically playful but they're all here to help her fight for her life. She never encounters a soothing white light beckoning her to follow, or doubt, or devils or anything. There's nothing to protect her from.
Then she walks across a desert with the anthropomorphic representation of her bones, played by Tommy Gunn, Cameron Lee and Adrianna Luna. She wanders away and her bones pulls out a boner and bone down in Bonetown.
In the real world, they pack Tanya with gauze and in the Underworld, Tanya awakens on a platform in the middle of endless water while above her, the physical representation of gauze, played by Capri Cavanni, does an aerial ballet on white silks. It's a good idea. It communicates the meaning very well. But it goes on, and on, and on, and on, and on and it's shot in a very boring way. Despite being nicely designed, Gauze Girl's costume is very cheap looking. For some reason the acting feels incredibly stilted during this scene. More so than usual. Tanya and Gauze fuck each other and use toys on one another.
Tanya then finds herself stitched to a wall and a sleek, sexy ragdoll named Stitch fucks her with her boy-toy Suture. Asphyxia Noir is clearly having fun in the role of Stitch and this is obviously her fetish bread and butter. The makeup stays on through a very thorough fuck and I am impressed. Suture makes funny orgasm noises and I giggle.
Finally, Tanya encounters Death, played by Derrick Pierce and it's of course what the entire movie's been building up to. Tanya has to fight Death to live. So, she should really fuck the shit out of Death, right? Be the best lay Death has ever had? Make him beg for her to let him rest? Nope. Death does most the work. Death fucks her, she doesn't fuck him. And Death doesn't really use her so much as ...yep...this is a sex scene in a porn movie. Come on, man.
As the doctors work to save Tanya's life, the defibrillation paddles come out. The doctor says clear and a nurse has her hands on the operating table. So that's fun. You can at least try, guys.
Here's the thing. I love a look. If you have an aesthetic, you have me. I will forgive almost anything if you have style. Underworld has the bare minimum of style but it's just not acceptable. Between this and Lost Love, I can say that Brad Armstrong is not an artist, he is a pornographer. Which is fine, it's what we're all here for after all. But I've seen better style in your average Hot Topic.
I don't know if Armstrong was one of those kids who always wanted to be goth but never broke out of the mainstream, or if Jessica Drake just has all these ideas for dark, epic porn tales and Armstrong just points the camera at her to keep her happy. If that's the case, good for both of them. They found success, but it’s mundane success. Whatever the story and wherever that camera is pointing, your flat lighting is doing your wife no favours. Even when Rob Zombie showcases Sherri Moon's ass, he at least selects the most flattering and exciting lighting with which to do it.
The saddest part? I never opened my adult beverage. This movie didn't deserve it.
I watched this sober.
Best Moment: The scene where Mecca gives Slice a blowjob.
Worst Moment: The doctors fucking in the closet. It was needless.
LILITH'S SCORE: 2.5 Out of 5. - It's A Halloween Trick.
Until next time, my voracious voyeurs. I’m Lilith, and I’m always watching.