Sunday, 27 February 2011



The British film industry used to have a fine tradition with portmanteau and compendium movies: from Ealing's Dead Of Night to the succession of Amicus and similar: Asylum, Tales From The Crypt, From Beyond The Grave (reckoned by some to be the best), Dr Terror's House Of Horrors, linking snappy, ghoulish shorts with the main story, and featuring phenomenal big name casts (the actors were only required for the short time their little segment was being filmed), probably concluding with the frankly lame, PG-rated The Monster Club. (I'm guessing the most recent was Alex Chandon's Cradle Of Fear.) The genre has the structural advantage that if this particular story isn't to your liking, don't worry because there'll be another one along soon and you might like that more. But that cuts both ways because it does allow for very variable levels of quality: cinema as a mixed bag. Maybe the hits might gloss over the misses, but it's more likely the misses will stand out more clearly against the hits.

The problem with Little Deaths is that with only three stories of about 30 minutes each, you don't get the contrast between the stories, and it's a longer wait for the next one. All three segments are really too long and I kept thinking it might have been better to have cut them all down to a punchier 15-20 minutes and added two extra stories. Sean Hogan's opener, House And Home, is probably the best of the three, a Tale Of The Unexpected in which an obnoxious pair of rich smuggoes offer a hot bath and a hot meal to carefully selected homesless people in the guise of Christian charity - and then drug them and sexually abuse them for their own decadent pleasures. But their latest victim isn't entirely what she seemed. Andrew Parkinson's middle segment Mutant Tool is a twisted, trashy grossout affair in which a man is force fed fresh human organs in order to obtain powerful drugs from his seminal fluid (collected in buckets as it continually dribbles out of his grotesque three-foot penis) - but the drugs can have unusual side effects on the right people. And Simon Rumley's closer, Bitch, is an overlong but satisfyingly nasty revenge story in which a young man exacts a suitably excessive retribution against his selfish, faithless and generally hateful girlfriend, exploiting her one weakness: cynophobia. (Wikipedia is your friend.)

It is a mixed bag, and it frequently veers into territory that's too sexually graphic for my personal taste. Ejaculation, urolagnia, mutated penises, a woman using a strapon to sodomise a bloke in a dog mask.... Frankly I'm uncomfortable with the frankness of it. In addition there's not very much humour outside of the excesses of Mutant Tool and I could honestly have used the laughs. It's not a disaster by any means - I've seen far, far, far worse this weekend (Little Deaths was the opening film at FrightFest Glasgow two days ago) - but the overtly sexual nature of much of the action simply didn't work for me. I'm also wondering whether the BBFC will let it through unscathed - we live in more liberal times, but you never know....


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