Directed by Sean Hogan, Andrew Parkinson, Simon Rumley
Distributed by Image Entertainment
Continuing the longstanding tradition of horror anthology films, Image Entertainment offers us Little Deaths– three stories exploring the always controversial themes of sex and violence in ways that are often thoughtful and nuanced, and yet at other times are perverse and outright repulsive (in a good way).
In the first segment- Sean Hogan’s “House and Home”- we meet an upper class ‘religious’ married couple with very particular tastes who invite a homeless girl to dinner in what seems to be a charitable gesture at first. Very quickly though we see that their motivations are anything but noble and while we know that a clever twist is definitely coming, Hogan manages to create a twist that’s neither obvious nor cheap. Playing out his segment initially as a torture film, Hogan incorporates smart practical effects without overindulging in gore and then kicks things up a notch for a gut-punch of an ending. “House and Home” may have some moments that feel like a typical anthology fodder but it serves up so much more in subtext, particularly that involving the urges and desires so inherent in human nature, regardless of class, that makes it a fantastic way to immerse viewers into the overarching twisted themes of Little Deaths.
In Little Deaths second segment- Andrew Parkinson’s “Mutant Tool”- we follow the story of Frank and Jennifer, a couple who are trying to distance themselves from a life of crime and embark on a somewhat normal life. Frank now works for Dr. Reece and shadily procures materials for Dr. Reece’s mysterious experiment. Jennifer is a drug dealer and former prostitute, resisting the urge to re-enter the only business she knows and for these people, a normal life means relinquishing a particularly scandalous career in favor of a more respectable and professional criminal enterprise. Desperate to get off drugs (because a clean dealer is better than an addicted one), Jennifer turns to Dr. Reece, who prescribes a new trial medication that promises to eradicate her dependency. Naturally, there are side effects and soon after Jennifer notices headaches and an insatiable sexual appetite that drives her back to the world of prostitution. She also begins to have visions of a man, chained up and in pain and they develop a strange psychic connection that serves as the motivation behind her sudden urges.
As a part of the anthology, “Mutant Tool” doesn’t seem to have much to say in the way of subtext or metaphors like its companion segments but it does offer up some incredibly striking and bizarre visuals while hitting audiences with some rather repulsive subject material to boot. While it may not be nearly as focused as the first and last segments in Little Deaths, Parkinson proves here he has an incredible eye for visual storytelling even if the ambition of his story gets the best of him as a filmmaker in the end.
Little Deaths concludes with Simon Rumley’s “Bitch.” Fans may recognize Rumley’s name from his previous features- The Living and the Dead and Red White & Blue– and with that being said, “Bitch” is the perfect story to punctuate the anthology. In Rumley’s story, we meet Pete and Claire who are in what you might refer to as a dominant/submissive relationship, with Pete playing the part of the submissive boyfriend with Claire dominating him mercilessly, allowing for some interesting metaphors. Beyond the sub/dom taboos explored, Rumley goes a bit deeper with his exploration of the power struggle between the sexes in “Bitch,” showing viewers how any one of us could unknowingly allow one person in the relationship to take all the power. “Bitch” speaks eloquently regarding sexuality and relationships with a gut-wrenching and mesmerizing finale (the last nine minutes involve one of the most haunting music montages I think I’ve seen in years), making it the perfect note to end Little Deaths.
For those of you who may not like your horror on the perverse side, you’ll want to skip Little Deaths. There is definitely a lot of incredibly disturbing and often shocking material offered up in the anthology; however, all of it is approached tastefully. Our trio of directors smartly shy away from using an overabundance of gore, letting audiences stew in their own juices about the horrors we’re not seeing (particularly in “Bitch”) and that’s what makes the film so effective- once you see it, Little Deaths continues to resonate long after the credits have finished, making it a truly effective piece of filmmaking by Hogan, Parkinson and Rumley.
For the DVD release of the flick, Image doesn’t really give fans a whole lot on the Little Deaths disc. We get a brief behind-the-scenes featurette and a trailer, but that’s about it. I really wish there would have been a commentary track at least for Little Deaths– considering the material and the bold performances in the flicks, I would have loved to hear more from Hogan, Parkinson and Rumley about their experiences making their segments and what went into their stories and the visuals within their films.
As an anthology, Little Deaths successfully embraces the world of taboos fearlessly- with sex and death being topics which have both mortified and intrigued audiences endlessly throughout the years. All in all, Little Deaths is tailor-made for edgier horror fans who enjoy stories that push the boundaries of conventional and classic genre storytelling but casual fans will definitely find the flick a bit hard to stomach in the end.
3 1/2 out of 5
1 1/2 out of 5
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