Little Deaths Review
By Bill Gordon
‘Little Deaths’ is a British horror anthology composed of three short stories linking only through the similar themes of sex and death. The directors consist of Sean Hogan (The Devil’s Business) who kicks off the anthology with ‘House & Home’, Andrew Parkinson (Venus Drowning) with ‘Mutant Tool’ and Simon Rumley (The ABCs of Death, Red White & Blue) who concludes with ‘Bitch’. Anthologies can be tough to handle, if one of the stories is bad it can bring down the whole film, V/H/S being a prime example. Luckily for V/H/S the sequel learnt from the mistakes of the first and was a lot stronger, with all of the segments being interesting and original in their own way. ‘Little Deaths’ struggles with the same problems as many other anthologies, resulting in some elements dragging the whole film down.
‘Little Deaths’ starts off on a high note with Sean Hogan’s ‘House & Home’, a tale about an upper class couple that get their kicks from luring in homeless girls to their suburban home for abusive sex games. This gloomy tale starts off by introducing you to married couple, Richard (Luke De Lacy) and Victoria (Siubhan Harrison). The marriage seems disjointed in a way, you get the sense that they’re in a rut or maybe one of them is being unfaithful, it’s only when the story starts to unravel you see that there is more to it. Richard lures homeless girl, Sorrow (Holly Lucas), with money and the promise of food and a warm bath, promising that it is all in the Lord’s name. What feels like a representation of how the upper class look down on the less fortunate, seeing them merely as animals, eventually evolves into something much more. What you expect is a simple story about a cruel game between two disgusting human beings that eventually get their comeuppance actually turns out to be something completely different. The end reveals a twist that sneaks up on you. Unfortunately the twist is let down by some poor make-up, but nevertheless successfully delivers the unexpected.
After a promising introduction, Andrew Parkinson continues with ‘Mutant Tool’. Jen (Jodie Jameson), a retired prostitute, lives with her boyfriend Frank (Daniel Brocklebank). Jen starts to feel unwell, so Frank seeks help from his employer Dr Reece (Brendan Gregory), who gives her some new prescription tablets. Jen’s state seems to improve, that is until she starts having hallucinations of a masked man hanging from chains along with Frank engaging in what seems like a violent assault towards her. ‘Mutant Tool’ is the strangest aspect of this anthology; it is full of unpleasant imagery and twists that feel more like a descent into a grotesque, bondage fetish nightmare. Elements of the film feel like it belongs in a perverted Japanese hentai, with imagery that isn’t easy on the eyes or stomach.
Simon Rumley wraps up ‘Little Deaths’ with the psychological horror ‘Bitch’. ‘Bitch’ centres on an abusive and sadistic relationship between Claire (Kate Braithwaite) and Peter (Tom Sawyer). Due to the dark and desolate lighting it is hard to see what is actually going on a lot of the time, but because of the sexually graphic content sometimes it’s better not to see anything at all. Peter, after being pushed to his limits, eventually devises a plot to have his revenge on Claire using her greatest fear. ‘Bitch’ is full of unlikeable characters and (surprise) fetishes, which again can make it an uneasy viewing experience. However, Simon Rumley executes his story effectively by using no dialogue during its final act. Instead, there is an uplifting musical score, which really helps paint the picture of Peter gaining his courage physically and mentally, until it is juxtaposed with the images of Claire being prepped for punishment, creating this disturbingly nightmarish atmosphere. ‘Bitch’ closes with a close up of Peter’s face as all we hear are the screams of Claire projected over the inspirative, major-key musical score. Claire’s screams echo through your mind while the credits role.
‘Little Deaths’ reminded me a lot of the stage practitioner, Artaud. Artaud used theatre of cruelty, his aim being to make the audience feel uncomfortable and to push them to their limits through grotesque imagery. ‘Little Deaths’ is a sadistic, fetishist and violent nightmare that really does push you to your limits. The grotesque imagery is often hard to look at and shrouds the atmosphere in unsettlement. There are some nice ideas and choices of editing, but sometimes it is all a bit too much.
UK DVD/Blu-Ray release – OUT NOW
We’d also like to thank Monster Pictures (@MonsterPicsUK) for providing us with the review copy of ‘Little Deaths’.
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