A French Z grade trash-gore epic starring the late Jean Rollin, as one of several mad surgeons operating in a secret French laboratory, this is the third micro-budgeted feature film from Paris video store owner/zine publisher/horror enthusiast N.G. Mount (Norbert Moutier). We'll refer to him under his real name going forward. Shot on video, this is a supposed adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft's HERBERT WEST-- RE-ANIMATOR, filmed with much more flair by Stuart Gordon a decade earlierd, as RE-ANIMATOR. But Moutier is not about flair. He's about something else which is more difficult to define. Moutier's 1983 gore epic, OGROFF, was like a miniature of THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE, and quite entertaining both in spite of and because of its woeful lack of resources. His 1990 Eurospy, OPERATION LAS VEGAS, managed to score cult actor Richard Harrison in the lead and was a mad, down-market, albeit straightforward attempt at mimicking big budget spy thrills. You have to admire Moutier's ambition, if not his follow-through.
From the Merriam-Webster Medical Dictionary:
Medical Definition of trepanation
2: a hole in the skull produced surgically
A trepanator, from this definition, is the surgeon who would bore these holes in the skull. There's a lot of trepanation in this film, an exuberant gore-fest with extremely down-market, to put it mildly, gore effects. We're talking butcher scraps here and perhaps restaurant leavings found in dumpsters and transported to the film's set, which is decorated with skeletons and bones hanging from the ceiling. To drill the point home, excuse the pun, Moutier prefaces the film with a text quote from Lovecraft.
It opens with French surgeon Dr. Victor Roll performing ghastly medical experiments on the brains and bodies of unfortunate "patients," with a chainsaw brought in for tough jobs. It seems to be set in 1960s France. When the mad surgeon's lab is raided by what look like a group of modern day hit-men, who exterminate him with extreme prejudice, the action suddenly shifts to New York City, onscreen title "NEW YORK TO DAY".... Only it doesn't appear to be taking place in America, outside of some particularly shaky stock footage. This time the laboratory is Dr. J Roll's Mental Clinic, the front man is the now grown son of the late Victor Roll, also played by a seemingly reluctant Jean Rollin, who always dressed in an impressive business suit
This "New York" clinic, represented by France's Clinic Jeanne D'Arc, looks more modern, but the medieval style butchery continues with more hardware enabled brain surgery. This time the bloody hacking is carried out by senior surgeon Dr. Herbert East (Michel Finas) a reference to the title character in H.P. Lovecraft's 1922 story, HERBERT WEST--RE-ANIMATOR, and this was obviously an intended, albeit unofficial, adaptation of that story in Euro Bis clothing. Speaking of clothing, or lack of it, there's no erotic content here, as in Stuart Gordon's better resourced, but still low budget, 1985 adaptation. It's nonstop gore and mayhem, staged with frenetic seriousness. My favorite scene involves Dr. East's demise as he's clawed to death by a hand puppet, representing a medically created mutant feline! It reminds one that the success of Gordon's RE-ANIMATOR had a lot to do with its twisted sense of macabre humor. TREPANATOR was doubtless an attempt to exploit the success of Gordon's film as quickly and inexpensively as possible. That's exploitation!
The best thing about Moutier's strategy is the manic energy on display as guts, decapitated heads, sawed off limbs, hands, feet and torn out innards are flung about. It's all scored to a dated synth score by Patrick Giordano, and dated in a good way, along with a garage rock anthem, "Right or Wrong" screamed by a "Mad Murdock." To top it all off, cult movie fanatics get to see Jean Rollin take a power drill to the skull of Blue Underground's CEO William Lustig, guest starring as a "man with nightmares." Lustig's own B thriller, MANIAC COP, also gets a cardboard homage by Moutier. Brigette Borghese, the villain of Rollin's FLY ME THE FRENCH WAY and Moutier's OPERATION LAS VEGAS, also has a brief guest role.
For fans of Moutier's OGROFF and French maudit like DEVIL STORY (1985), not to mention Andy Milligan's TORTURE DUNGEON, TREPANTOR fills the bill with wall-to-wall butchery and ends with the most hilarious brain removal by chainsaw ever. Moutier would soldier on with the no-budget ALIEN meets JURASSIC PARK epic, DINOSAUR FROM THE DEEP, also featuring Rollin in a sizable role.
C) Robert Monell, 2017