Severin Films: The Devil's Honey (1986) - Reviewed

Italy’s very own ‘Godfather of Gore’ Lucio Fulci, best known for extreme transgressive blood and guts classics such as Zombie and The Beyond as well as the giallo classic Don’t Torture a Duckling, ran into a few problems around the turn of the 1980s.  After severing his creative partnership with screenwriter Dardano Sacchetti who wrote nearly all of Fulci’s most celebrated films, the director decided to try winging it alone, moving on to direct outliers like the barbarian fantasy Conquest or dabbling once more in giallo with Murder Rock in 1984.  

Around this time, Fulci developed hepatitis shortly after finishing Murder Rock and was hospitalized for many months before developing cirrhosis and spending another entire year recuperating at home.  It’s important to consider the departure of Sacchetti coupled with the director’s newly developed illness when you take a good look at the director’s first film in two years, The Devil’s Honey, when it became evident Lucio Fulci might have been losing his touch.  Those looking for another Zombie are in for a bit of a disappointment.

A loose reworking of William Wyler’s The Collector with the genders swapped, The Devil’s Honey follows Jessica (Blanca Marsillach) whose existence consists of partaking in kinky sex games with her boyfriend/saxophonist Johnny (Stefano Madia) including but not limited to a still outlandish opening sequence of Johnny playing his instrument stuffed in Jessica’s crotch.  One day amid the duo’s sexcapades, Johnny suffers a head injury and collapses into a coma before dying in the stretcher due to a botched surgery by Dr. Simpson (Brett Halsey).  Devastated, Jessica vows revenge against the doctor and proceeds to kidnap, imprison and make him her sexual slave.

Think Fifty Shades of Grey Fulci style, The Devil’s Honey occupies a curious place in Fulci’s oeuvre in that we can see the director’s decline in quality with little in the way of gore and much in the way of his trademark chauvinism.  While displaying no shortage of outlandishness and shock value, Fulci’s first return to the director’s chair since his debilitating illness while frequently hilarious tends to fall flat at times.  On the one hand, there’s enough nudity coupled with increasingly ridiculous antics concocted by the two dysfunctional lovers in the first half with Blanca Marsillach going the full distance with almost reckless abandon.  On the other hand the film, which was partially inspired by the director’s script for Collector’s Item, lacks the momentum and polish of his 1970s work. 

Shot by Fair of the Dove cinematographer Alejandro Ulloa, the film bears that trademark ‘80s soft focus glow which dates the film almost immediately.  With a score by Claudio Natili that sounds very like your typical Zalman King film, the sleaze factor is undoubtedly through the roof in The Devil’s Honey.  And yet for all of the film’s unabashed carnality, the film is more absurdly funny than titillating with the infamous saxophone opening scene spoiled on some theatrical posters garnering more hilarity than horniness.

Strictly for dedicated Fulci fans and those keen on the so-called erotic thriller, The Devil’s Honey while intended for theaters was renamed Dangerous Obsession in the US before being dumped straight to video in a heavily censored version.  Thanks to the dedicated efforts of Severin Films, however, a new digital master was created with plentiful extras.  While not a good starting point for newcomers to Fulci, The Devil’s Honey remains an interesting if not wacky moment in the director’s career where he tried his hand at a genre outside of his comfort zone.  It doesn’t always work but will leave an impression likely to make you gasp or snicker in disbelief. 


- Andrew Kotwicki