Before we jump headlong into this very special holiday edition of Fucked Up Fridays, I just want to say a few things.
First off, I’m obviously not a religious guy. My beliefs aren’t super important here, though. I do want to say that in talking about this film I am in no way intentionally mocking the religious themes of the film or the faith to which they are attached. I am, however, looking at this film a little differently than a religious person would. If you choose to disregard this paragraph, you can leave your hate mail in the comments or you can slide in my DMs on Instagram where I will mock you unmercifully and post screenshots.
A Note to Regular Readers:
It feels so damned good to be back! Due to some (good) family stuff, I ended up having to take like two weeks off. I honestly underestimated how busy I would be and just didn’t have time to do any writing. I also underestimated how much taking that time off would drive me absolutely batshit crazy. Now that everything is back to normal, the Fucked up Fridays and True Story Tuesdays will be back on track. Thanks for sticking around, y’all. I appreciate the fuck out of it.
With all that out of the way, let’s get on with the review!!
On with the Show
This is the only torture flick that it is socially acceptable to watch with your family. I know people who watch this movie every year. I have heard of church groups renting out theaters to watch it around Easter time. People take their kids to see this movie. Honestly, I watched it once about 7 or 8 years ago in a cough syrup haze and didn’t remember much of it except that it was pretty damned violent. I decided that I would sit down and give The Passion of the Christ a fair shake with a (mostly…kinda) sober mind.
In the Beginning…
The film opens up with the Agony in the Garden of Gethsemane. Yeshua knows that his ratty-ass disciple Judas has sold him out to the man and he’s praying for guidance. All the while, Satan stands in the shadows trying to make him question what he’s doing.
We get a shot of Judas being paid his thirty pieces of silver from the Jewish council and then they go to arrest Yeshua.
Even though Yeshua pipes up like, “I’m that fella you’re looking for,” when the authorities show up, Judas still has to go give him the most awkward kiss ever. Then all hell kind of breaks loose.
I get that it is supposed to be happening late at night, but everything is shot with this shitty blue tint that obscures almost all of the action. The “action” is all shot in this super dramatic slow motion. Between the blue tint and the constant bullet time, it was hard to follow and harder to get into. About five minutes in a guy gets his ear lobbed off and you don’t even get to really see the bloody stump because of that fucking blue tint. Super lame.
His Day in Court
They take Yeshua to be tried by the priests and after a bunch of false claims are made, he is sentenced to death. One of my favorite claims that the priests make is that he drives out devils with the help of other devils. I guess they never heard the word “counterproductive” or, ya know, the Hebrew equivalent.
It’s at this point in the movie where I really start to like this Yeshua dude. He doesn’t give a single solitary fuck. This priest is grilling him about who he is and where his power comes from and all kinds of angry religious shit and he’s just like “No, yeah. I’m the son of God, bro.” So after they get their bullshit verdict they drag him off to meet his doom at the hands of Pontius Pilate.
Pilate really isn’t down to put him to death over a bunch of Jewish fuckery, so he sends them to Herod. Herod, you’ll remember from the book, was a total dick. I’m pretty sure he was a baby killing dick at that; could be a different Herod. I couldn’t be fucked to look it up, honestly. In this film, he’s played by popular YouTuber, JonTron.
Maybe it’s not JonTron but it looks like him. Maybe it’s his Middle Eastern doppelganger. Who knows. Anyway, Herod the (possible) Baby Killing Fuckhead decides that Yeshua isn’t a threat; he’s pretty sure our protagonist is crazy so he sends them away. It seems like no one wants to put this fella to death.
I’m gonna go out on a limb here and say that we all know how the rest of the story goes. I’m going to skip the rest of the plot summary and get into the good stuff!
Let the Torture Begin!
About a half hour in I was worried that I was watching a cut version of the film. Luckily, I was wrong. It took a while to get there, but once the torture starts it doesn’t stop until the end of the film. We’re talking about a sold hour and a half of bloody violent shit paired nicely with some psychological pain.
This gleeful beating and taunting is the kind of shit that really shows the dark heart of humanity. This isn’t the clinical beatings of Martyrs. No. This movie is more on par with something like Trauma (2018) or Amerikan Holokaust. The Roman guards take so much pleasure in causing pain. The Passion of the Christ is possibly one of the most mean-spirited torture films I’ve ever watched.
I don’t know a whole hell of a lot about Ancient Rome but I’m assuming that “scourge” translates to, “Chain ‘im to a stump and beat the everloving fuck out of him while people watch”. That’s exactly what happens.
They start by caning him. Hard lashes to the back followed by insults and laughter from those delivering the blows. This film didn’t shy away from showing how much those switches were tearing up his back, either. This goes on for awhile. You don’t see every lash land but those you do see definitely count. The caning is broken up by shots of smug or laughing Roman faces and the mixed reaction of the crowd.
It’s the crowd in this that I found really interesting. This is due to the presence of two characters: Mary and Satan. While the latter moves unnoticed through the crowd barely suppressing a smile, giving Yeshua the fuck-me eyes Mary watches on in horror as her son is beaten.
The emotional pain that plays on her face may be heavier and harder to handle than the physical pain her son is experiencing. For awhile anyway.
Here Kitty Kitty…
After awhile, the guards who are handing out the biblical beatdown are told to switch weapons. The weapons chosen for them are some cat o’ nine tails looking whips with all manner of cruel bone attachments. These aren’t the ones you find in your auntie’s night stand. These things were meant to rip flesh and that’s just what they do.
Before they lay into him with the fifty shades of pain whips, they dangle them in front of Yeshua’s face while laughing. I think this is a great illustration of the spirit of this film. They don’t just want to punish him or cause him pain. They want to instill fear and subservience. The Romans want to break his body and his spirit. Yeshua takes it like a fucking champ though. Sure he suffers but he never shows fear.
His resolve is stronger than his mother’s but not by much. The heartbreak of Mary is plain on her face. In my honest opinion putting the focus they do on Mary makes this entire film that much more effective. As Yeshua’s body weakens, so too does Mary’s spirit. It’s a beautiful juxtaposition.
Satan continues to move silently through the crowd as well. She continues giving Yeshua bedroom eyes but this time she’s carrying some kind of baby abomination on her hip. This was fucking trippy.
Finally the guards are stopped. Their captain tells them that they were to punish him, not scourge him to death. They begrudgingly take him off the stump and drag him out of the theater of torture.
One More Chance..
Yeshua has a crown made of twisted thorny branches forced onto his head. The Roman guards declare him the King of Worms and continue to taunt and beat him. He never flinches, never lashes out. He is covered in blood, in unimaginable pain and still his spirit remains.
He is taken back to Pilate, beaten and bloody. Pilate presents him to the crowd pleading for them to see reason and allow the prisoner to be released but they refuse. It is hard to say if the old priests are goading the crowd or if they are just in agreement; either way, they demand Yeshua be crucified.
Pilate then tells Yeshua he has the power to have him released if only he would ask him to do so. Yeshua, bloodied and beaten, informs Pilate that he has no power over him. Pilate literally washes his hands of the matter and gives him over to the crowd to be crucified.
Again, both Mary and Satan are in attendance as Yeshua is finally sentenced to die. The glee of Satan is a great foil for the pain written in Mary’s eyes.
Take Up Your Cross
At this point we’re something like thirty minutes into an almost nonstop mental and physical torture marathon. They give Yeshua his cross and he is told to carry it to Golgotha, the Place of the Skull.
As he drags this big ass heavy cross, the Roman guards continue to taunt and beat him. The crowd hurls curses and loogeys his way as he goes. Finally his body fails him and he falls. He is kicked, jeered and spat on by the crowd and flogged by his guards. Finally, someone with some sense steps in and stops them, demanding the guards help him carry his cross. They delegate this to an unwilling man in the crowd.
It is more of the same all the way to the top of the big ol’ hill. What I loved about this part of the film was the weakness and suffering on display. He was weak from blood loss and probably in shock. His legs would barely carry him let alone that half a damned tree they wanted him to lug uphill through a crowd of assholes. The shaking, gasping for air, and frailty were so believable. I was watching a human body pushed to its limits and then some. It was an incredible sight.
Before they enlist the help of the onlooker to carry the cross, Yeshua falls. As he struggles to get up, Mary rushes to his side to try and help him. It is a beautiful scene. The whole time this is going on, Satan lurks in the crowd watching with her sexy ass bedroom eyes.
The Old Brutal Cross
This is the culmination of all the torture right here. I knew exactly two things going into this part of the movie: crucifixion is an ugly way to die and I was about to see one happen. By the time they got to the top of the hill, I was fucking ready to watch it go down.
The guards start off by dragging Yeshua onto the cross and spreading his arms out. The fist hand they just tie to the post and sink a nail into it. I honestly didn’t expect to see as much of the nail being driven as I did. I was pleasantly surprised.
After that, one of the more experienced Romans shows up and berates the guys who nailed the first hand. You see, there’s a hole in the cross that makes it easier to drive the nail so you need to put the hand over that hole. If that means dislocating a shoulder before driving the spike home, so be it. Not going to lie to you, folks. When they yanked his shoulder out to socket I cringed a little. It was fuckin brutal.
They finish nailing him up and we are treated to a really cool shot from under the cross. Blood is just pouring through the abovementioned hole. It really helped to drive home (bah dum tiss) just how hardcore being nailed to a cross really is.
It’s More than Physical…
There’s a beautifully emotional scene between Mary and Yeshua just before he dies. You see the love they have for one another and in that moment they allow a small candle of hope to flare up. Seconds later it is snuffed out as Yeshua speaks his final words and dies.
Yeshua’s body gives up mere seconds before the final piece of Mary’s strength crumbles. The pain reflected in her fact in those seconds is greater than anything Yeshua or any other human could ever even imagine.
Shortly after Yeshua dies, an earthquake strikes the hill on which they stand and a huge storm blows over the land. The Romans may not know what the hell is going on but they know better than to stick around. They decide to finish the others off by breaking their legs with big ass hammers. This ensures that all of their weight will be held by their arms. In that position, it is almost impossible to draw a breath. So, for their crimes, these men are left to suffocate in immense pain.
Because he is already dead, they do not break Yeshua’s legs. They stab him through his ribs with a spear just to be sure he’s dead. When the spear goes in, a fountain of blood sprays out. This is the bloody money shot that brings the torture porn session to an end.
What Else Is There?
If it seems like I summed up the last hour of the movie there, it’s because I did. This movie was no shit almost an hour of torture, killing, and human cruelty. Now that I got all of the violence out of the way, we can go on to talk about some other stuff.
Satan: Hotter than Hell
When they showed Satan’s face I was kind of caught off guard. Honestly, when they first showed her in the garden I said to myself, “Wow. I guess I’m gay for Satan now,” and I was fine with it. I actually checked the IMDb for the movie and it turns out that I was wrong. Where most movies would have cast some vaguely sinister looking man, this film uses a beautiful woman (Rosalinda Celentano) . I dig it. She’s more tempting than any brooding pointy bearded dude could be. Her femininity makes her juxtaposition with Mary in the more emotionally heavy scenes more impactful. A man in this role wouldn’t have had the same effect.
I really enjoyed the performances in this film. I feel like you could watch this movie without subtitles, not understand a word of it, and the emotion of some of the characters would still come through beautifully. This is especially true for Maia Morgenstern who played Mary. She was incredible.
I often talk about how well an actor suffers onscreen. Really, that can make or break a torture or splatter flick for me. You can have all the piss poor dialog with wooden performances in the world but if those actors can convey pain, suffering, and fear, I’m sold. On the other hand, it doesn’t matter how good the rest of the movie is, if the victims aren’t believable it kills the mood for me. That was not the case with The Passion of the Christ. Jim Caviezel was absofuckinglutely outstanding. This guy suffered gorgeously for an hour. Even when he wasn’t being beaten or nailed to shit, he was suffering. He conveyed the agony and the symptoms of shock like an absolute genius. He made this film what it was.
It had the Look
This film was gorgeous. While it wasn’t overly gory, the makeup effects on the wounds and the bloodshed was top notch. The sets and costumes were great. It was awesome to see torture porn in these huge sets with a ton of extras and a giant budget. To bring it all together, the cinematography was spectacular. It really brought all of the visual elements together and put them on display beautifully.
I really enjoyed this film. The performances were great, it looked incredible, and it was dark as fuck. The torment was mental, physical, and emotional but most of all it was visceral. The joy the Romans and the mob took in Yeshua’s torment and agony was like looking human cruelty in the eyes for over an hour.
Like I said, I am not looking at this as a religious film, so I see it a little different than others. When I watched this I saw the corruption that comes when government is tainted with religion. I saw the darker side of human nature and the power of the bloodthirsty mob. I watched a man be broken and murdered while his mother looked on helplessly. I saw despair. I loved this film.
That being said, I think that people who take their kids to see this are dead ass wrong. I also think that people who will watch The Passion of the Christ every year like it A Christmas Story should really check out some extreme horror films. I think, If they’re honest with themselves, they would dig it. Personally, I don’t see the religious component being enough to take away from the visceral violence and unrelenting cruelty of this film.
All in all would I recommend this movie? Yeah. Check it out. It’s dark, disturbing, violent, and cruel. It’s right up my alley. With the right kind of eyes, I think even those who aren’t into the religious aspects of the film can get something out of it. I know I did.