Written and Directed by: Sean Hogan, Andrew Parkinson, Simon Rumley
Starring: Kate Braithwaite, Daniel Brocklebank, and Amy Joyce Hastings
Reviewed by: Brett Gallman
Experimentation. Revenge. All Part of Life's Twisted Games.
Little Deaths is a horror anthology in the loosest sense; it has no actual frame story tying its segments together, nor is it much more than a glorified collection of short films (each segment is even delivered by a different writer/director). The common themes marrying them all together are the old horror standbys, sex and death--at least taxes arenít a problem in these things, though Iím surprised no oneís attempted to make The Amityville Tax Return at this point. At any rate, this anthology examines the lives of some vile, sexual degenerates, and, well, some of their deaths, so itís all pretty much right there in the title (which I assume is also an innuendo to orgasms, so it really is all there).
The first segment features a married couple posing as charitable Christians looking to offer a night of shelter to a poor homeless girl named Sorrow (a name for which they have an endless amount of puns); neither side ends up quite being what they seem, and it ends with sexual fluids and blood being tossed about. This is followed up by a ridiculous tale involving Nazi technology, a giant penis and its sexual fluids (again), which is transformed into the latest street drug; a prostitute gets ensnared in this mind-bending plot that also involves psychic powers and whatnot. Finally, we end with the most grounded of the trio with a story about a bizarre, self-destructive couple with an odd fetish that finds the guy acting as a dog to be punished by the girl. She acts like a bitch to him one too many times and sends him over the edge, plunging him into a dark place.
And that plunge is without a doubt the best ten minutes or so of Little Deaths. I wish the preceding 80 had been so delightfully sick and daring; donít get me wrong, they are sick, and they are daring--but theyíre also a bit too emptily shlocky and juvenile. The climax of that third segment, though, is quite a doozy, and itís at least appropriate that it belongs to the best overall story of the bunch. Its main couple is a fascinating duo--the girl is played by Kate Braithwaite, who I think is the filmís biggest revelation, acting wise. In a story that has your sympathies zig-zagging back and forth, she moves from callous to pitiful by the end of it all. The guy (Tom Sawyer) practically oozes masculinity issues, as heís constantly facing his inadequacies as a lover and a provider, and all of this culminates when his girl treats him like a dog in public--and then she treats him like one at home, where heís provided with his own literal doghouse for sexual humiliation play. Itís twisted and engaging, and it climaxes in a most discordant and disturbing sequence that features some soaring, synth-pop music played over a montage that plays so triumphantly that you wonder if Simon Rumley forgot this is a horror movie. But then you realize whatís really happening, and youíre either left cringing or pumping your fist, depending on how deeply your issues with girls are.
Iíll probably never forget how this movie ends, which is probably something I wonít be able to say about the rest of it, which is fairly rote considering how outrageous they are in theory. The opening segment is pretty typical stuff that finds the psychos having the tables turned on them, though it comes seething with some not-so-subtle jabs at the moral majority, making it a little bit more heady than some. Graphic rape and torture eventually follows, complete with money shots and watersports, all that stuff thatís inherently disturbing, and Little Deaths is all too willing to go there. A lot of it mostly came off as puerile (I could almost hear the filmmakers saying ďhey, watch thisĒ as the guy whizzed all over the poor girlís face). Had we gotten more of a glimpse of what was driving the married couple here to engage in these activities, it might have worked a bit better; instead, it all feels rather half-baked, with the twist even resorting to featuring a horror trope thatís been done to death lately.
That segment still fares much better than the middle one, which is a scatterbrained affair from the get-go, taking viewers from seedy parking garage drug deals to seedier motel room trysts, with a quick stop to a grungy, mysterious underground lair for good measure. I found it quite amusing that this one tried to be the most psychological of the segments since it revolves around a guyís massive dong; somehow, the Nazis figured out that his semen contains hallucinogenic properties, so heís kept on life support and milked periodically. If nothing else, this is pretty imaginative, ludicrous stuff, and itís just a shame that itís played so straight. For some reason, this material is treated as seriously as a heart attack, and it all ends up being reduced to a typical story that sees the lead girl being consumed by her vices and curiosity.
Little Deaths is an ugly movie in more ways that one--the material is obviously quite lurid, and itís matched by sort of sickly aesthetic all the way around. Some of the more darkly lit scenes (particularly the exteriors) are even crawling with ugly noise that might have been intentional (or perhaps just due to a low budget). Either way, each of these stories are at least rightfully confined to short-form, and they arenít a bad collection of British tales; I see promise in each of the directors, who donít exactly coax sweeping performances or incredible visuals (save for a few inspired bits), but, on the whole, Little Deaths is pretty adequate. The final story alone is worth the price of admission, as it gives new meaning to the phrase ďunleash the hounds.Ē Image Entertainment unleashed this film on DVD towards the end of last year, and the presentation is pretty strong, particularly if you like loud, dynamic 5.1 tracks that send sounds flying all around your room. The transfer is similarly pretty good, save for those aforementioned noisy portions that seem to be more a fault of the filming than anything. A trailer and a behind-the-scenes feature represent the sparse extras for this trio of tales thatís worth hearing once. Rent it!
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