Saturday, March 09, 2019

Little Deaths (2011)

I've been rolling the British-made Little Deaths around in my head since I watched it a few days ago, wondering what exactly to say about it. If you can't stop thinking about a horror movie - does that make it good? This is an odd one.

Little Deaths, as the name and the artwork suggests, is about sex and death. Two staples in our genre. Here we have three shorts collected together but without any wraparound or connecting threads. I suppose it's a bit like The ABC's of Death, with nothing but a common theme to unite the work.

This isn't necessarily a bad thing, but I feel it works better with larger projects (like the alphabet). For this, when the credits rolled after the third story, it felt undercooked, somehow? I hadn't been keeping track of the time but I had assumed there'd be more than three segments in this anthology.

Anyhow, this trio of tales has elements of sex, death, and also revenge. House & Home (written/directed by Sean Hogan) seems to generally be considered the best of the three - at least judging by the Letterboxd reviews. It concerns an affluent couple whose hobbies include kidnapping and abusing young homeless women. This is a pretty typical "they picked on the wrong girl this time!" story, though the reveal wasn't quite what I was expecting. It's fine enough, but the degradation that comes before the payoff made me feel uneasy and kind of exhausted. 

Mutant Tool (written/directed by Andrew Parkinson) is bonkers but loses a lot of its impact due to its plodding plot. I am a fan of stories about imprisoned and exploited entities, so long as they escape and the captors get their comeuppance. This doesn't exactly happen here, but the ending is satisfactorily dark.

The third and final tale is Bitch (written/directed by Simon Rumley), and it's the one I've thought the most about post-viewing, but I honestly can't decide if I like it or not. 

Here, we witness the day-to-day goings on in an abusive relationship between Claire (Kate Braithwaite) and Pete (Tom Sawyer). Claire is mean and manipulative; she does what she wants and makes Pete feel bad until he goes along with it, treating him like shit in front of his friends as well as in private. They have a kinky "puppy play" situation where Pete wears a mask and leash, crawls around on all fours, and gets pegged by Claire (and sleeps in a kennel in the spare room) but we get the distinct impression that this is more for her enjoyment than his. Ultimately, after she literally fucks one of his friends right in front of him, Pete breaks. He begins to set up a revenge plot that preys upon her deepest fears.

This story is tough to watch, it goes without saying, as abuse is never a fun thing to witness. Sawyer does well in portraying Pete as a sweet bloke trapped in his relationship. He seems constantly agonised and yet the crumbs of affection or interest Claire throws him, plus the hope that things will improve are enough to keep him from leaving. 

Claire is - aptly, given the title - shown almost entirely as a bitch. A horrible, selfish, abusive woman. Her moments of phobia are the only glimpse we get into something deeper or less repulsive about this character. As the villain, I guess this makes sense, but it's a shame to see such broad strokes used. Tackling an abusive relationship from the lesser-represented side of a male survivor is refreshing, but painting Claire so one-dimensional makes it come across more like Rumley just fucking hates women. Her unpleasant fate is not entirely clear, and I hope this was the creator's intent and not an oversight. I won't spoil it, but I have my reasons for disagreeing with a few reads I've seen of what becomes of her.

(aside: well... yikes. I just found out that Rumley also directed the most upsetting segment of the aforementioned The ABC's of DeathP is for Pressure. So honestly, I'm not going to waste too much time wondering what his motivation was here).

I think what got to me most about Bitch was its use of music as it's made clear what Pete is doing. An emotive, uplifting instrumental plays over this montage, stopping with jarring immediacy on a shot of him weeping at what he's done. It's my favourite part of the entirety of Little Deaths, though I'm not sure it's enough to redeem the whole thing...

This is streaming on Shudder at time of writing. It's barely over 1hr30 so if you feel like gulping down three odd little stories, you could do a lot worse??

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