Tattoo artistry transcends culture. People from all over the world choose to ink their bodies for vastly different reasons. In recent years, however, it has been argued that much of the artistry behind tattoos has been lost. With all the recycled ‘praying hands’ and nautical star designs, you can’t blame tattoo artists for growing frustrated by the lack of original, meaningful work they are given. Now that subject finds its way into the horror genre, as Anarchy Parlor tells the story of a talented artist in search of the perfect canvas to showcase his skills as a tattooist.
Written and directed by Devon Downs and Kenny Gage, Anarchy Parlor finds a group of American tourists venturing to Lithuania for vacation. While at a club, Amy (Tiffany DeMarco) and Brock (Ben Whalen) meet the seductive and heavily-inked Uta (Sara Fabel), who invites them to get tattooed at the parlor where she works. Shortly after their arrival, they meet an unnamed tattoo artist (Robert LaSardo) who immediately promises to give Amy the tattoo of her dreams. The next morning, the group of friends discover that Brock and Amy never returned home. Worried for their safety, the rest of the tourist decide to go on a hunt through the dark underworld of Lithuania in search of their friends.
Despite its somewhat goofy title, Anarchy Parlor isn’t a silly movie at all. Mixing elements of Hostel and Turistas, the film is equal parts torture porn and pseudo-slasher, while still managing to feel like an extended episode of Tales from the Crypt; right down to the morality tale ending. Complete with slicing, dicing, and some really solid special effects work, the film is sure to evoke plenty of grimaces throughout its running time. One scene in particular finds a character essentially being skinned alive, and the effects are so realistic that I squirmed in my seat until the sequence finally came to a merciful end. To put it simply, this is a gruesome film.
Some performances are stronger than others, with some noticeably inexperienced actors hamming it up a little bit, but nobody is overwhelmingly terrible. In fact, the real highlight of Anarchy Parlor is an incredible performance by Robert LaSardo. Instead of an over-the-top, “Hey, look how crazy I am!” type of interpretation, LaSardo goes the complete opposite route. The tattoo artist is an extremely calm, polite, and oddly comforting villain, which makes him infinitely more complex and interesting than your typical bad guy of the week. For someone who has almost always portrayed goons and gang members, LaSardo shows some previously unseen range in a role that could very well be a coming out party for the prolific character actor.
Perhaps the biggest issue with the film is that the group of tourists isn’t particularly likable, and as a result, it’s difficult to really care whether or not they escape from tattoo torture. Amy is nice enough, but her friends range from a little obnoxious to downright arrogant, so following them around as they attempt to rescue her isn’t exactly enjoyable. Thankfully, those sequences account for a relatively small portion of the film, and the scenes inside of the tattoo parlor are significantly more interesting.
Anarchy Parlor doesn’t attempt to reinvent the wheel, but succeeds at being exactly what it is: a fun entry in the stunted horror subgenre of tourism torture. Fans of such films—especially those with strong stomachs—are sure to find some enjoyment out of Downs and Gage’s debut. This one is worth checking out, if for no other reason than to witness LaSardo’s incredible performance.