Anything coming from a distributor calling themselves Artsploitation Films is automatically going to make me perk up in attention. That being said, I was quick to jump on the opportunity to check out one of their newest releases that arrived at The Nerd Mentality HQ; The Perfect Husband. This English language Italian film directed by Lucas Pavetto looked like an amalgamation of numerous movies and ideas I’ve grown to enjoy over the years, so I was eager to jump in. So the question is, does The Perfect Husband feel like a shameless ripoff, or is it able to stand on it’s own set of legs in a pool of like minded films? Read on as I tackle this question head on!
If you have checked out the trailer for The Perfect Husband (alternatively titled What Lies Within), you may have been hit with a feeling of familiarity. The Perfect Husband is a familiar movie, with a familiar plot. Viola (Gabriella Wright) and Nicola (Bret Roberts) are a married couple who have recently been devastated by the miscarriage of their first child. This tragic event takes a toll on their relationship and creates a divide between the two. In an attempt to rekindle their marriage they travel to a relatives remote cabin in the woods. From here it’s a downward spiral of brutality and mistrust for the couple. If any of this sounds like Lars von Trier’s Antichrist that’s because they begin in eerily similar fashion.
For those that have seen Antichrist though there is a moment in The Perfect Husband where a fox is found dead in a bear trap. While it very well may be looking too much into something, this moment will mean something to Antichrist fans, and I found this to be almost the exact time where comparisons to Antichrist stopped for me. Sure, the destruction of our main couple is the focal point throughout, but The Perfect Husband is a much more straightforward and accessible film.
Coming from distributor Artsploitation Films, The Perfect Husband fully embraces both halves of that moniker. It is a whirlwind combination of exciting cinematography, ideas, and brutal violence. It’s an extremely hard film to sit through, and not because its in anyway bad or boring. Quite the contrary actually, this is an extremely effective film. It evokes feelings similar to the original I Spit on Your Grave or Last House on the Left. The violence is as exploitative as it gets and will make all but the most jaded and desensitized viewers squirm.
Even more frightening though is the portrayal from Bret Roberts of the unchecked mental illness, paranoia, and schizophrenia that plagues Nicola. The Perfect Husband will be a tough and uncomfortable watch for those who have been affected by an abusive relationship due to the realism in this performance. Gabriella Wright does a wonderful job as well with the role of Viola; there is constantly a strange air of mystery surrounding her character especially when contrasted with the bluntness of Nicola once he’s gone over the edge.
The Perfect Husband is a film that works for me not only because it reminds me of so many genre films that I love, but even more so for reasons I can’t really talk about without giving too much of the film away. It’s a narrative that is fairly straightforward but comes with some surprises that ultimately make the depraved journey worth it.
Overall Score – 4/5
The Picture – 3.5/5
While The Perfect Husband features some sheer brutality in it’s violence and portrayal of mental illness, this is complimented with some beautiful cinematography that makes it gorgeous to look at the film as you peak through your fingers. It’s definitely not the most colorful movie, with greens and browns dominating the daylight scenes, and a large portion of the film taking place at night. Colors are a bit washed out, but this feels more like a creative choice than a transfer error and picture quality overall is quite detailed. A downside here is that there is some digital artifacts that pop up from time to time, and blacks could definitely be deeper.
The film also features some great gore to look at, a lot of which reminds me of the rubbery Italian goodness of 70s & 80s Dario Argento or Lucio Fulci. While the onscreen violence is devastating and heartbreaking, the gore itself becomes over the top to the point of being fun which is an interesting line to walk in this kind of movie.
The Sound – 3/5
Unfortunately, the most disappointing aspect of this release is the sound. During the course of The Perfect Husband I found myself cranking the volume up to much higher than normal levels to hear the dialogue, only to have everything sounding blown out once loud sound effects or music took over. That’s not to say The Perfect Husband doesn’t sound good, the constant adjustment of audio may frustrate some though. I always find sound to be the trickiest aspect of a Blu-ray review as everyone is going to hear things a bit different based on personal settings and hardware, so your mileage may vary.
The Features & Packaging – 3/5
Featuring a solid but standard Blu-ray case and one sided artwork, it’s a very basic presentation overall from Artsploitation Films. Thankfully the special features included here are able to pack on a little bit of heft to the overall package.
First up is 25 minutes of behind the scenes footage detailing some of the production of the film and featuring a couple of moments with the cast. It is presented in a very raw style, making it feel like you are standing right on set with the cast and crew. The main course in the features department comes in the form of Il Marito Perfetto, the original 40 minute short from director Lucas Pavetto that he expanded into the feature length film. While this is just a shorter, low budget, and less well done version of the same movie it’s still interesting to see how this original Italian short was expanded on for the full length English version. Finishing out the special features is an assortment of trailers for other releases from Artsploitation Films; it’s a light but serviceable package overall.
The Technical Stuff:
1080p High Definition presented in 2.35:1
Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround English
1 Blu-ray Disc
The Final Verdict (3.5/5)
The Perfect Husband feels like a combination of many different films you’ve seen before: the previously mentioned Antichrist in basic premise, the exploitative violence against women in films such as I Spit on Your Grave, the slashers of the 1980’s. Even though the film is Italian in origin it has much in common with the French extremist horror movement films of the mid 2000s, like High Tension or Martyrs. While the familiarity may be off putting for some, if any of those movies resonated with you like they did with me, then The Perfect Husband deserves your time as it is unique enough to stand on its own in that field of titles.
A couple of picture and audio issues aside, I still give this release of The Perfect Husband a recommendation for anyone who is a fan of cinema not afraid to repeatedly punch you in the gut. It is intense, brutally violent & gory, tension filled, well acted, and will make you want a shower afterward. Familiar or not, that’s perfect exploitation film making as far as I’m concerned.
The Blu-ray is available from Amazon for those interested
Note: This Blu Ray was sent to us for review. This has not affected our judgement or editorial process in any way. Please contact us if you have any questions regarding this process.