A depressed woman is left alone. She decides to make her last day, HER day.
There is always going to be a subsection of horror fans that wants more. More gore, more sex, more brutality, and more extremes – not coincidentally, this is also the same crowd that rails against PG-13 horror. A lot of them (us) have figured out that it’s not Hollywood that will provide this, but the underground horror film companies. With the availability of resources and equipment, and the ease of distribution through the internet, many more horror fans have stopped waiting for what they want to see and instead gone ahead and done it themselves. This is, of course, a double-edged sword – for every Flowers or Pazucus or Cannibal Messiah, there’s ten more boring, plotless, gore for gore’s sake (and not even well done) clunkers that seem rushed and uninspired. Long story short, there are great films you’ve never heard of out there, if you wade through the muck. And that brings us to Sugar Hell Productions, the CAT 4 Collective, and The Devil in Me.
Sugar Hell Productions is a new film production company based on the West Coast, USA. Their mission (straight from their facebook page) is to mix in artful photography and horror with retro bondage shorts. Along with MollyWalsh Video (Flesh and Blood a Go! Go!, The Bizarre Art of Samantha), they have created CAT 4 Collective (I love that name), and are about to release their first project, The Devil in Me. Written and directed by the team of Sam Hel and Alexis Rousseau, with additional editing work by MollyWalsh filmmaker Adrian Baez, this short, primarily black and white film (about 11 ½ minutes) puts on screen exactly what they set out to do in their mission statement. Featuring just one character (Lola E as Bunny Evergreen) and a narrator (Jeanne Silver, sometimes also known as Long Jeanne Silver, from films like Water Power and Debbie Does Dallas 2), this is very much a retro bondage short film with an edge of artistic, gory horror added into the mix.
Bunny Evergreen, we learn right up front from the narrator, only ever cared about three things: sex, heavy metal, and death. And April 8, 2005 just happened to be her last day on this earth. In black and white shots, we watch this young girl slide a knife up and down her arm over lightning fast, blast-beat driven heavy metal music. Cut to this same young girl, wearing a t-shirt of the legendary metal band Death, alone in her room, a ball gag in her mouth, touching herself. This film has already lived up to its promises in just the first couple minutes alone. Later, after a corpse-painted Bunny overlooks a busy highway, we learn she enjoyed making her own low budget erotic films.
There are quite a few aspects of The Devil in Me that really stand out. Although it is very short, there are still a handful of scenes that are handled with a careful touch that falls more on the artistic side of things. When the camera quietly pans over the gravestones in the cemetery, or even as Bunny caresses/threatens her bare arm with a knife, we can see there is talent behind the camera.
The juxtaposition of black and white erotic bondage shots against full color, violent and bloody shots is a far cry from the typical “naked girls covered in blood” that so many other films try to pull off as edgy. Whereas those other films attain titillation at best, this short film pushes beyond and is able to convey feeling through their images, reaching an artistic plateau that not once comes across as pretentious. And through it all, as we watch what we understand to be a depressed young woman essentially tear herself apart, at no point do we feel like she’s a victim: there is no potential rapist tearing her clothes off, she removes them if she wants to. There is no torturous psychopath putting her through pain and torment; anything that happens to her is by her own choice. This is a nice change, to have a female protagonist in charge of her own sexuality and living by her rules and her choices.
The Devil in Me is slated to be released in December, 2017. What I like about Sugar Hell Productions company is that they seem intent on not only putting out quality films, but they also want to give back as well – with each purchase, they have committed to donating a portion of the proceeds to help people in need. For a first film, The Devil in Me is very well done. It is short on story, but full of brilliant visuals and atmosphere. And the soundtrack…if you love heavy metal, you’ll have a great time hearing snippets from a variety of bands: Satanas, Intestinal Discharge, Martyrdom – these are just a few of the groups you’ll hear, and the end credits, much like those of a Bill Zebub film, give great detail on the bands and the songs featured. This short film is for fans of heavy metal, erotic horror, and well-made, extreme, independent cinema, and comes highly recommended by yours truly.