Foto: Linnea Nordström

Absurdist Terrifying Phantasm

What happens when the most violent band this side of the Arctic Circle meets up with a lost Chinese mythological movie from the 1920s? Utropia dares to find out…

This year, Tromsø’s silent film festival, the Stumfilmdager, celebrated their tenth anniversary and at this occasion, numerous special events were planed. One caught the attention of Utropia more than the others though: The live-score performance by local band REPTILE MASTER during the screening of the antediluvian Chinese movie ´The Cave of the Spider Women´. The movie, whose reels had been feared lost many decades ago, was actually revived after one copy of the original Norwegian import was found in, of all places, Mo I Rana. Fast-forward two years, and the movie was finally shown again, almost eighty years after its original release. To accompany the (originally silent) movie-experience, the apocalyptic Doom band REPTILE MASTER was commissioned to write and perform a brand new original score.


The idea of seeing REPTILE MASTER play in a movie-theater in front of a seated audience was, to be fairly honest, somewhat weird. The intensity of the terrific musical violence the band spews in their live-performances is indeed second to none and one could be honestly left to wonder if such insane sonic filth would imprint well enough together with a movie made when the band’s members’ great-grandparents were likely still wearing diapers. Thankfully, all those doubts proved completely unfounded and the band, in concert with the film, created one of the weirdest multi-media experiences to ever grace the stages of Tromsø.


The movie, which follows the kidnapping and subsequent rescue of a Buddhist monk from the clutches of supernatural temptress women, started relatively slow and so did the music. After a few minutes of abstract droning, more characters are introduced like the Ape-spirit, the swarthy Demon-cook and the clumsy Swine-spirit. Everything spices up when the movie’s first fight scene (featuring the aforementioned characters plus a pair of sword-wielding, cave-dwelling women) erupts, when the tempo is raised to brutal heights and the insane bass vibrations start to reverberate in the theater seats.


Following the conclusion of the inconclusive battle (the Ape and Swine spirits could not free their buddhist friend), the movie transits to a wedding feast where the monk is unwillingly teamed with the leader of the spider-women. The atmosphere among the guests was quite cheerful, but the fact that these guests were all some kind of odd demons, spirits or other anthropomorphized animals made it seem extremely absurd. REPTILE MASTER’s dissonant droning only added to this almost uncomfortable feeling by making it physically harder to breathe.


Finally came the movie’s final battle scene, set in a darkened cave engulfed by flames and filled to the brim with demons and ungodly spirits. As expected, the band went all out to reflect the moving pictures’ mood of danger and urgency; feelings that the audience most certainly experienced…in the flesh. As the sextet started to brutalize their instruments, inhuman noise suddenly filled the theater, making the screen, the seats, and even the audience resonate with sonic turbulence. Ribcages here and there were transformed into primitive amplification devices while nostrils became clogged and teeth started shaking like in a bad children’s cartoon. This state of pure unabated and literal tremor only lasted for a few minutes though, and soon our friend the monk was back unscathed with his comrades the Swine and the Ape. As the noise ceased and the lights came back on, it was hard to comprehend what had just happened and even harder to shift back to a more mundane plane of existence. This exclusive performance was truly something else; something only some sick maniac would have been able to even consider, or REPTILE MASTER to pull off.

Text: Lyonel Perabo