Obsessed with her sexy roommate, Jill violently imprisons Jennifer in their apartment in a twisted attempt to bring them closer together.
Excess Flesh is a disturbing, in your face film about two women who live together in Los Angeles. On one hand, you’ve got Jill (Bethany Orr), a shy, somewhat timid, self conscious young woman whose idea of a good time is a quiet night at home with a close friend and a movie. Her roommate, Jennifer (Mary Loveless), is the polar opposite – she is loud and opinionated, with model looks, and loves to go out to the clubs and party, then come home drunk and guiltless with a ton of junk food or a new guy (and sometimes both). They may be roommates, and maybe even close friends, but it becomes very clear early on that these two get on each others’ nerves very easily, setting up a tension we can be sure will explode sometime along the way. And all that is just scratching the surface.
This is the feature length debut from director Patrick Kennelly (co-written with Sigrid Gilmer), and it shows a ton of potential. Kennelly doesn’t just give us a head to head battle between two women, one of whom seems to want everything the other seems to get so effortlessly. That’s only one layer of this uncomfortable and upsetting story. There is something far uglier here, something just below the veneer of what might otherwise be seen as a typical “crazy roommate” thriller. And we get a hint of it right up front, when the director juxtaposes Jennifer out partying at a club, with loud music, drinks, and friends all around her, with scenes of Jill at home eating a pop tart with just as much intensity and excitement. Comparisons along these lines continue throughout the film.
Excess Flesh has a strong feminist undertone from start to finish, with the camera often pointed at body issues, emotional and physical abuse (sometimes self-inflicted), and female beauty expectations. We can see right away that there may very well be more to the story than meets the eye, but it still doesn’t make it any easier as we watch for the first half of the film as Jill is berated and broken down by Jennifer, her drunk mother, and most intensely, herself. Even when a guy she meets at a party, Rob (played by Wes McGee), is clearly interested in her, she won’t let it be true, doing anything to push him away and convince him she is not worth it. And every time Jennifer screws her over, she promises Jill that they’ll sit down and talk about it, which she never follows through on. Finally, when Jill spends all day preparing a nice home-cooked meal and Jennifer bails on her, Jill has had enough and chains her up in the corner. And that is when things get really crazy.
Excess Flesh is a very stylish, disturbing film, and a very well shot one. At times it is chaotic, full of loud music and strobe lights and quick cuts, and then it takes it down a couple notches, lulling us back into thinking everything is going to work out, everything is going to be alright. And as soon as we calm down, it’s right back in our faces. Kennelly experiments a bit with various techniques, employing a split screen format for parts that is very effective, and even breaking the fourth wall a bit while leading up to what might be the most upsetting reality/competition show ever. And as all of this is going on, as our characters begin to devolve into the madness that we see on screen, we start questioning where reality ends and fantasy begins.
Thanks to strong acting, intense visuals, and a mixed tone of tension and empathy, Excess Flesh manages to say something very loudly and very clearly, but never comes across as preachy. This film takes some of the ideas we’ve seen on screen before and approaches them from a different angle, mixing in a very feminist message along with a disturbing brand of psychological horror. I could say that this is like Single White Female meets High Tension, but that only touches on what Excess Flesh is all about. This is a slick, stylish horror film with a heavy dose of social commentary to go along with the tension and bloodshed, and I highly recommend it to horror fans of all kinds.