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Friday, December 9, 2011

LITTLE DEATHS -- DVD review by porfle

In the tradition of the great (and near-great) anthology horror films of yore, LITTLE DEATHS (2010) offers three tales of the strange, the weird, and the fantastic.  Unlike most of those other ones, however, the emphasis here is on sexual perversions and other adult themes.  So, no graveyards, zombies, or cackling crypt-keepers. 

A collaboration between English writer-directors Sean Hogan, Andrew Parkinson, and Simon Rumley, it's a far cry from the EC comics-inspired stuff meant to stoke popcorn-munchin' Monster Kid nostalgia (think Amicus' TALES FROM THE CRYPT, the Romero-King classic CREEPSHOW, and, going way back, DEAD OF NIGHT). 

These thoughfully-rendered slices of death are more like dark indy short films, meant to leave the viewer in a state of vaguely disturbed contemplation similar to the feeling you have right after waking up from a nightmare.  They're also highly adult-oriented, focusing on twisted male-female relationships with heavy doses of sexual perversion, nudity, rape, and other unsavory stuff. 

The trilogy begins with my favorite, Sean Hogan's "House and Home."  When wealthy, successful sexual deviates Richard and Victoria (Luke de Lacey, Siubhan Harrison) invite a homeless woman named Sorrow (Holly Lucas) to a bath and a meal, their sense of entitlement includes the right to subject the unfortunate waif to all sorts of ulterior motive-type stuff in order to satisfy their evil desires.

It's all great fun for the predatory couple until they get the tables turned on them big time, which is when the film erupts briefly into a bloody, flesh-eating orgy of horror.  Here, LITTLE DEATHS comes closest to old-school scary monster territory and the makeup effects are pretty cool.  It's also the last time the film's violence will be this graphic.  And just when a longer story would be shifting into the next gear, this one ends, leaving our fevered brains to supply our own mental images of what will happen next.  While this will undoubtedly disappoint many viewers, it's still pretty effective. 

"Mutant Tool" is Andrew Parkinson’s way-strange contribution, in which a heartless research scientist named Dr. Reece (Brendan Gregory) experiments on a strange captive--a mutant with an extremely large, well, mutant tool.  This grossly elongated willie secretes a substance used to create a dangerous new drug that ends up being tested on one of Reece's unsuspecting patients, Jen (Jodie Jameson), a drug-addicted call girl trying to clean up her act.  Among other side effects, she suddenly develops a psychic link with the mutant which gives her visions related to whomever she touches.  In this way, she discovers a horrific link between Dr. Reece and her pimp-boyfriend Frank (Daniel Brocklebank). 

Well, kiddies, this is some pretty weird and (to use the word yet again) "dark" stuff, made all the more so by being played as straight drama.  Jodie Jameson is very good as Jen and earns our sympathy as the poor girl's life turns into a shock-horror/sci-fi nightmare.  Those with a taste for the bizarre will probably respond favorably to the whole mutant angle, although our final peek at the gargantuan Mr. Happy may, under the circumstances, provoke a few titters.  Still, a rather unsettling effort overall.

Lastly, Simon Rumley's "Bitch" is the least scary but most graphically sex-oriented segment.  Milquetoast bartender Pete (Tom Sawyer) is mired in a humiliating sado-masochistic relationship with Claire (Kate Braithwaite), who counteracts her paralyzing fear of dogs by treating Pete like one.  And I don't mean that figuratively--think leash, doghouse, the whole nine yards.  As Claire's abusive behavior begins to include boffing Pete's best friend Al right in front of him, the fed-up Pete hatches a sinister revenge scheme which will include--you guessed it--dogs.

"Bitch" is the longest segment and tends to meander a bit on its way to a not all that satisfying conclusion.  Pete's revenge is telegraphed so early that we pretty much know how it's going to end up, and sure enough, we're right--but by then, our imaginations have written a scene that the film can't match.  In fact, it doesn't even try to, setting up the horrific situation and then leaving us to conjure our own mental images once again.  But while the violence is implicit, the sexual content in "Bitch" is the most explicit yet, with a nude "bad-dog" Pete lifting his leg and whizzing in Claire's underwear drawer and Claire punishing him by donning a strap-on and going doggy-style on him. 

All three segments share certain behind-the-camera personnel to link them stylistically, including cinematographer Milton Kam, who gives everything a muted, autumnal look that's suitably atmospheric.  Performances range from good to fine, with familiar character actor Christopher Fairbank (FIFTH ELEMENT, ALIEN 3, BATMAN) making a welcome appearance in "Mutant Tool" as part of Dr. Reece's team.  The moody musical score is another asset. 

The DVD from Image Entertainment is in 1.85:1 widescreen with Dolby 5.1 surround sound and subtitles in English and Spanish.  Extras consist of interviews with the directors and a trailer.

"House and Home" is the best all-out horror yarn, "Mutant Tool" goes for weirdness in a big way, and "Bitch" follows scenes of graphic perversion with a diabolical but somewhat by-the-numbers revenge.  While the first story overwhelms the other two, LITTLE DEATHS as a whole is pleasantly unsettling and worth watching for horror fans on the lookout for something different. 

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