‘Soft Liquid Center’ Chattanooga Film Festival 2023: A Mumblegore Masterpiece

The worst break-up I ever had lasted for months, an agonizing drawn-out process where my abusive ex-boyfriend texted me non-stop and called me every day, constantly demanding my attention regardless of my attempts to end our relationship. It was a toxic mess and a deeply isolating experience that made me feel like I was slowly going insane. And somehow, directing duo Perry Home Video has captured that exact feeling of insanity with their mumblegore film Soft Liquid Center, which screened as part of the 2023 Chattanooga Film Festival.

Co-writer and producer Steph Holmbo stars in the film as Steph, a young woman who recently broke up with a toxic ex and has moved into an apartment on her own. Tentatively excited for a fresh start, Steph begins to gain back her independence and confidence. But just as she begins to heal, strange things begin happening around the house. Furniture moves on its own, weird sounds emanate from the walls, and food rots spontaneously in the fridge. On paper, this at first sounds like your standard haunted house movie. Until you realize the source of what plagues her.

From afar, her ex-boyfriend is performing some sort of ritual to further torment Steph even after she thinks she’s escaped. It’s an abuse survivor’s worst nightmare manifested on screen as Perry Home Video truly creates a liminal nightmare world. Steph’s reality is fluid, especially as the haunting continues, with nightmares and the real world flowing into one. This gives the film a deeply unnerving vibe that permeates every frame.

As the film enters its third act, Soft Liquid Center becomes downright terrifying as it becomes perhaps one of the best examples of a low-budget ghost story I’ve ever seen. With minimal dialogue and nightmarish imagery, Perry Home Video creates both a scary movie and a poignant look at trauma and survival. It’s not afraid to be weird, meditative, and downright uncomfortable. There’s a particular long take involving Steph taking apart a watermelon with her bare hands in search of something that she thinks lurks in its flesh. As the red pulp splatters across the white tile, everything about this technically innocuous scene feels terrifying and unsettling. And that encapsulates the entire vibe of Soft Liquid Center.

Importantly, all of this is discovered through the film’s show-not-tell mentality. It’s asking you to really engage with what’s happening on screen instead of it needing to really spell out what’s going on. Dialogue is swapped for long takes of Steph living out mundane days trying to find herself, only to be suddenly disrupted, shattering any illusions of safety the film tricked us into believing we had. This only makes whatever is unfolding for Steph all the more terrifying and cosmic in scope. There’s no understanding of what’s happening because it is not supposed to be understood; only feared.

Cinematographers Zachary Gutierrez and Joseph Kolean (who also co-wrote the film with Holmbo) amplify that fear as the camera often emulates something watching Steph through the trees. We become the entity haunting Steph’s footsteps, never leaving her alone.

If you’re willing to give yourself to Soft Liquid Center, you’ll be rewarded with a deeply haunting tale whose vibe and oppressive atmosphere will chill you to the bone. Perry Home Video taps into the ethos of mumblegore and the power of show not tell to craft an indie horror masterpiece that speaks to many’s worst nightmare: an ex that just won’t let go. Let this film sink into your brain and rot your own soft liquid center until nothing but terror remains.



If you’re willing to give yourself to Soft Liquid Center, you’ll be rewarded with a deeply haunting tale whose vibe and oppressive atmosphere will chill you to the bone.


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