Dir: Bill Zebub
Star: Jackie Stevens, Kathy Rice
Given Chris’s comments on Dirtbags, I opted to fly solo on this one, not least because of a cover (right) that made it look more like soft-core S&M than anything. That’s doing the movie a dis-service, because it’s not what is intended at all. The opening credit is “A disturbing film by Bill Zebub,” and the director said, “If you don’t feel like you have to take a shower after seeing this movie, then the movie failed.” This is one of those films which is difficult to review, since normal standards just don’t apply. It’s not a movie meant to be “liked”. If you do, you should probably seek psychological help – and might I also suggest some form of chemical castration? Anyway, back to the film, which is a depiction of a sexual predator (Stevens) who kidnaps a woman (Rice), with the intention of converting her into his slave. The front half or so depicts this process with an unflinching eye; the rest covers what happens thereafter. There’s also more women getting faux-crucified, which seems to be a fetish of the director, perhaps more than his characters.
The main problem may be a result of the quite deliberate choice by Zebub to provide no background, in particular for the victim. While the torments inflicted on her are unpleasant, she’s barely more than a mannequin, anf that she’s gagged for much of the film only depersonalizes her further, with no “hook” on which the audience can hang their sympathies. Also, there’s a lack of insight into why the perpetrator is the way he is, which would be the other way to go [trying to make the audience empathize with a predator – now, that’d be truly trangressive]. In the middle, as part of the process, he makes up a story about how he’s part of a large, underground organization – if that had truly been the case, it might have been a more interesting route, as in the vastly more disturbing Martyrs. After lots of yelling “I am your god now!” by Stevens, things do improve somewhat in the second half, as the predator enlists his victim’s help in another abduction: will she or won’t she break her programming? The last 20 minutes are the best, as this tension helps the characters to develop, and there’s a final twist that did make me go “Hmmm.”
But did I need to take a shower afterwards? No: I was left neither shaken nor stirred, so on that basis, the movie did fail, and I can’t honestly say I have any interest in watching it again. Credit where it’s due though, particularly to Rice, in a role that leaves little to the imagination and can’t have been much fun to shoot. While less a success, this is probably more worthwhile an endeavour than Dirtbags. Zebub is to be commended, for trying to stretch himself, since this is exactly the sort of territory independent horror should tackle, things from which Hollywood should run screaming.