Praying Mantis

Director: Marc Levie

Reviewed by Paghat the Ratgirl

I very nearly didn't bother to watch this Belgian fantasy film because of the preview, which made it look like softcore porn & nothing more. It's actually kind of an elegant weird tale about a woman whose life cycle is coordinated with the growth patterns of a strange variegated vine. To complete this cycle requires the death of her sexual partner.

Praying MantisShe loves her partner a great deal & so when in the heat of summer it becomes time to mate most violently & in earnest, she rejects her sensitive beloved cello-playing Julien (Yann Chely) in favor of rowdy randy motorcycling Patrick (Sasa Nikolic), who she won't mind so much killing.

There's a peculiarly French type of vampire tale usually about spider women, though a mantis woman is pretty much the same thing. Probably two-thirds or more of all printed vampire fiction originating in French is of the spider woman type.

While the archetype of the devouring woman recurs all around the world, it seems to be of special fascination for French fans of weird fiction with very specific connection to the insect world.

Such tales either make women out to be frightening man-eating beauties who heartlessly cause suffering & death to innocent men -- or who transform sex into the most perfectly wonderful way to die, enjoyed equally by both participants -- depending on whether the gynophobic nature of the myth works itself out as Romanticist literature or as Misogynist literature.

Praying Mantis (Le Feastin de la mante, 2003) is of the Romanticist type. Julien is heartbroken that Sylvia (Lou Broclain) will not fuck him to death. Patrick escapes from her clutches but realizes there's nothing to live for without her, so returns to help her complete the cycle even though it means dying for her.

From Patrick & Sylvia's naked tango in the attic to that final strangulating copulation at the end, this erotic thriller strives for a degree of poetry throughout. Though sometimes clumsy & unintentionally funny, for the most part it is quite a wonderful version of a male castration fantasy in its culturally French/Belgian manifestation.

Whether assessed as softcore horror porn or as a fantasy thriller, it can't exactly be called a good film, but as exploitation cinema goes, it has an approach that won't be as familiar to English-speaking viewers as it may be to French-speaking viewers. Its fascinating moments outweigh its unintentionally ridiculous ones.

Particularly ridiculous, however, is the closing under-credits theme song, possibly the single most laughable theme song you'll ever hear.

copyright by Paghat the Ratgirl

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