Thursday, June 16, 2011

Little Deaths (2011)

Blood Between The Sheets

If there's one thing in life that I'll never turn down (apart from booze, drugs, and sex), it's a good anthology, with the exception of Creepshow 3, which I've refused to watch thus far based on principle alone. Many of my favorite films come from the classic Amicus anthologies like Tales From the Crypt, From Beyond The Grave, and Asylum. What makes an anthology so much fun is the fact that you get (usually) three movies in one. Take a story that doesn't work out so well as a full length feature, cut it down by forty minutes and you have yourself a perfect entry, ready for the ADD-minded audiences who may have hated it had it been released on its own. The UK's Little Deaths is probably one of the most fucked up anthologies (if not films) that I've had the pleasure of viewing. Combining elements of sex and death, our three directors weave a collection of stories so bizarre and unsettling, it could've probably been titled as part three in the Three Extremes series (I know how you production companies are with titling sequels...I bet it would be called Three 3xtremes, which actually works just fine without the Three in the title). Somewhere in the distance, I can hear the faint echo of a movie exec scribbling this down on paper five minutes before an important meeting.

The first story in our film is "House and Home", directed by Sean Hogan (The Haunting of #24, or Lie Still as its known in the UK). This entry involves a nasty rich couple who get their sexual kicks by playing the role of selfless religious do-gooders who invite homeless people over for dinner, a bath, and a few bucks in their pocket. Once in their home, they berate and humiliate their poor guest before drugging them, tying them up, and engaging in devious sexual acts. Richard, the husband, thinks he's hit the jackpot after spying on a homeless girl named Sorrow, believing her to be the perfect candidate for one of his torturous nights. Dressing up nicely and donning a large crucifix around his neck, he makes his move, convincing Sorrow to come home with him for some good ole Christian TLC. After being drugged, Sorrow wakes up bound and gagged with Richard and his wife ready to begin the fun. In an uncomfortably humiliating scene that involves more bodily fluids than you may wish to hear about, Richard's wife takes over and continues the grueling deed. Soon, however, the vicious couple realize they may have gotten in over their heads with Sorrow, who isn't exactly what she seems. With the help of some nasty friends, Sorrow turns the tables and Richard wakes up to a nightmarish scenario he never expected.

"House and Home" is a good start for Little Deaths, because it's short and sets up the atmosphere for the rest of the anthology. While I would say it's definitely the weakest of the three, it still manages to cram a ton of violence and sexual depravity into its small time slot, which is what you basically want in a film about sex and death. My biggest problem with the entry is that it really lacks substance in terms of story. I've nearly given almost the entire plot away because the story flies by without warning or development, making it difficult to describe the appeal of the tale without revealing a small portion of the twist. Regardless, it's still a solid short that prepares the viewer for the bizarre nature of what's to come.

Next on the list is Andrew Parkinson's "Mutant Tool", an absurdly strange film that follows a recovering drug addict/prostitute who unknowingly involves herself in the continuation of an abandoned Nazi experiment. Jen is trying to clean her life up one step at a time, with the help of her boyfriend (and ex-pimp). It probably doesn't help that they're drug pushers, but they do what they can to get by. While dealing one night, Jen is knocked unconscious and her stash is stolen. After a big fight with her boyfriend, she begins facing the urge to start hooking and using again. What she doesn't know is that her boyfriend isn't only pushing drugs, he's supplying a doctor with human organs. Asking the doctor to see Jen about her depression and problems, he prescribes her a new medication that he assures will help her work through her issues, assuming she can handle the side effects. At first, everything seems fine, but soon Jen finds herself feeling more sexual than ever and begins hooking left and right. The medication is also causing her to have visions of a mutated man locked in a cage, spilling large amounts of semen into a bucket via an enormous, dangling cock. The doctor assures her that it's completely normal for someone as troubled as her to have these visions, but what he doesn't tell her is that she's being groomed for something bigger and that her life will never be the same.

Certainly the most bizarre entry in Little Deaths, "Mutant Tool" has a cyber punk vibe that separates it stylistically from the other stories. There are some truly unsettling scenes in the film, mainly involving the captive mutant spilling his seed for the crazy doctor's experiment. Similar to "House and Home", the plot isn't entirely developed and leaves you a bit frustrated in the end, as you may expect a bit more of a resolution than what you're given. Still, "Mutant Tool" remains unmatched in this anthology for its eccentric plot and style.

The third and final entry in the film is the aptly named "Bitch" by Simon Rumley (Red White & Blue). The story sees our protagonist Pete stuck in a terrible relationship with his godawful bitch of a girlfriend Claire, who is so demanding and horrible, it's shocking that he's still with her. She leaves him alone in clubs so she can go home with the singer of a band, she ignores his wants and needs, and even makes him dress like a dog and sleep in a giant doghouse, making him crawl on all fours and piss on the rug just so she can punish him. Sex with Claire is also a real downer, as Pete is forced to take a strap-on worn by Claire in her continuing lust for power and dominance in the relationship. Eventually, Pete has enough, and the rest of the story results in an epic ten minute revenge sequence that leaves neither person the real winner.

"Bitch" is by far the stealer of the spotlight in the anthology, fitting perfectly as the film's closer. It's not nearly as violent or fucked up as the other entries, choosing to play out like a slow-burning drama that builds so much hatred and tension, you can feel an explosion of frustration ready to burst by the end of the story. Instead of going balls-to-the-wall crazy with it, the ending plays out in a long sequence with little dialogue and an epic score that feels almost triumphant as we watch Pete appearing to pull his life together and shift the balance of power in the relationship. Anyone who's been in love with someone who treated you like shit or wanted to make power grabs at every turn will appreciate this entry and its conclusion with an un-throttled vigor that will stay in your head for days. While comeuppance is always welcomed in these sort of scenarios, the film still manages to remain as equally heartbreaking as it is victorious.

With enough semen, urine, and blood to make up an entire season of CSI, Little Deaths is a uniquely perverse film that combines two of horror's most respected elements, nearly creating its own patented sub-genre in the process. Those of you with an eye for the extreme and a stomach for the sick will likely revel in the mind bending perversity and horror on display in the film's three stories. And for those of you who already know that "little deaths" (or "la petite mort" as the French say) is a metaphor for an might just get a little something extra out of this experience.

 3.5/5 Stars

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