British horror anthology limps out cut onto DVD, John reviews
Following in the footsteps of the great portmanteau movies of Amicus, three British directors contribute short films looking at sex and death. Little Deaths unites these tales with a common director of photography to create some continuity, and the visual style and thematic concerns provide a reasonable framework for Sean Hogan, Andrew Parkinson and Simon Rumley to merge their talents.But first, a warning to the reader that the subject matter of the films is quite disturbing, and if you don’t get the sexual insinuation of the title then you probably should give Little Deaths a wide berth. For those of you who like their horror slightly perverse then the good news is that tonally and visually what you get here is surprisingly explicit, despite the efforts of the BBFC to tone it down with certain cuts – I guess to Rumley’s segment.
First up is Sean Hogan’s “House and Home” where a well to do couple pretend to be evangelical Christians and pick up homeless Holly Lucas with the promise of a bath and a meal and some dosh in her pocket. Of course, things aren’t quite so simple and the married couple are soon enjoying Ms Lucas in their basement unaware that she is not quite as vulnerable as they have assumed.Following on is “Mutant Tool” from Andrew Parkinson, where Jodie Jameson is trying to kick drugs, prostitution and her rubbish life. Her ex-pimp boyfriend puts her in touch with a shady doctor whose experimental drugs raise her mood, arouse her needs and give her hallucinatory flashes of a man in a cage. Enjoying her new state, Jen is back on the game and sniffing things she shouldn’t as her doctor insists she keeps taking the tablets.
The final story is the longest, Simon Rumley’s “Bitch”. Here downtrodden Tom Sawyer is used and abused by his dominating partner, enduring her unfaithfulness and her sadomasochistic games. When she finally proposes a threesome with his best friend, the worm is for turning and her cynophobia (fear of dogs) is the weak spot he will exploit.
The frankness of the images in this compendium of violation, stupendous sexual organs and various bedroom utensils requires either great artistry, careful intelligence or a powerful delivery to justify their inclusion. Whilst the first two episodes walk that tightrope with aplomb, I am quite uncertain that the final tale where revenge is visited so abhorrently can be justified and I found myself agreeing with the charges of misogyny aimed at this movie.Rumley’s tale was the only disappointment here for me. Its basic exposition is messy and indulgent and the inclusion of an extensive montage with bombastic music adds to a self indulgence and suspicion of misogyny that the rest of the compendium is careful to avoid. His basic failure to add characterisation to Kate Braithwaite’s role adds even more to those accusations.
Conversely, I really liked Hogan’s tale, which owed more to the spirit of Amicus than the other two with the story evolving to become a moral fable about haves and have nots. Parkinson’s segment was also enjoyably perverse, plumbing ickiness like few other horror films and the descent of his lead is tragic rather than gloried in. Their opening two stories are great fun and it’s a shame that Rumley’s contribution follows them and spoils their good work.
Monster release this cut version of the film on a region 2 locked disc, complete with making of featurette and commentary as the main extras. In the commentary, Parkinson and Hogan join forces for their two parts and Rumley does his bit on his tod with a short contribution from composer Richard Chester to discuss the montage at the end of his episode. Parkinson talks about his father dying mid shoot and the problems with casting, and Hogan explains how he upset distributors and producers.
The three directors are also interview for the making of piece. Hogan explains how he came up with the idea for the compendium and he and his counterparts talk about the film’s production as well as dealing with accusations of misogyny. Trailers for Excision, The Fallow Field, Midnight Son, ABCs of Death and The Inside are included.This is of course a low budget movie and the transfer reflects this as it is a little soft with black levels that obscure some detail as well. Still, the grittiness of the subject matter and the cinematography don’t make the image too much of an issue if your expectations are reasonably set. There is a stereo track that is clear if not dynamic, ensuring dialogue is easily reproduced and followed.
Perhaps Simon Rumley’s work isn’t my cup of tea but the two other stories here are pretty good and I enjoyed them. For those of you who want uncut, then the US release is the place to go.
It’s the end, but the moment has been prepared for…
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