Eric’s Review: Sadistic Intentions (2019)

★★★★ out of ★★★★★

Heavy Metal and Horror combos go together like peanut butter and some really bloody jelly. Getting the band back together was never such a bad idea.

Directed by Eric Pennycoff

Musician and weed dealer Kevin (Michael Patrick Nicholson) has lost it. We are introduced to him at the conclusion of a murderous rampage, hammer and hacksaw in hand, dispatching the remains of a family in the mansion where he had apparently been invited.

Chloe (Taylor Zaudtke) is a young woman who, strapped for cash, and wanting to go to College in the Bahamas. She gets a call from Kevin, her dope dealer, and Kevin gives her the opportunity to share in the profits of a shipment of marijuana. She’s an optimist, and a happy-go-lucky guileless stoner girl. Every bit of their phone conversation screams TRAP! But, being desperate for money, and a generally trusting soul, Chloe is deaf to the tones of mania in Kevin’s voice. She agrees to meet Kevin that evening to make the deal.

Stu (Jeremy Gardner) is his old songwriter and band-mate from their band Morbid Annihilator. He too has been summoned to this mansion that Kevin is hanging out in, but he believes they are going to be rehearsing some new tunes. Stu is jaded, a burned out and frustrated musician. And he wishes that metal was dangerous and intimidating, and fears that the music has lost its impact, and is hoping to create something new and dangerous.

Chloe and Stu both arrive in this lovely remote mansion, and Kevin is nowhere to be found, though the audience discovers that Kevin is hiding upstairs in a locked room.

The first act of this movie is a series of protracted anxious scenes of waiting for Kevin to show up. I suspect it was Pennycoff’s intent to protract the tension, but it feels more like stalling for time. It does a good job of building up the character of Stu and Chloe, and they build up some great chemistry, as the audience waits for Kevin to bring on whatever monstrous plans he has in store.

This feels like a two-act drama, with the first act establishing Chloe and Stu, and the hinge point being where Kevin is fully introduced. When Kevin makes himself known, Chloe and Stu encounter the results of his massacre. Kevin has been toying with them, his plan to reconstruct one of Stu’s violent and apocalyptic songs in real life.

The back half of the movie is a layer cake of deception, torture, and madness. Clearly, we can’t trust Kevin, he’s gone too far. But what about Stu? Chloe and the audience are forced to puzzle through these layers of trust, and the results make for some great dramatic tension.

Sadistic Intentions is cut from the same mold of neo-Giallo as a number of other recent thriller releases. The movie is beautifully rendered in warm yellows, with cyan and magenta overtones that are all the rage in genre cinema right now. (Framed, Unsane, Mandy, Housewife… these colors are trending heavily, and to good results.) DP Malcom Purnell and Pennycoff are also fond of close-ups, and the loving shots of a fingers and toes getting wrapped in wires and probed by knives are absolutely wince-inducing. There are a number of Peeping-tom first-person camera shots which are also used quite effectively.

The acting, particularly by Zaudtke and Gardner was nuanced and affecting. They are first-rate protagonists, and I hope to see their careers flourish going forward. Nicholson has a scene-chewing role, and plays it very arch. His wild eye-popping and frantically gesticulating version of Kevin was what the role needed, though it is a bit of a caricature. It’s a little jarring side by side with the more layered aspects of the other two mains. Also, as metal bands go, neither Nicholson nor Gardner are modestly metal-looking. Their stage act could use a little more leather.

Though listed in the credits, genre man-of-the-moment Larry Fessenden is credited in this movie, though he really isn’t acting here. He shows up in portrait form, and shall we say, somewhat disembodied at one point.

The first act did feel a bit padded, to fill out the run time a little, but the time it gave us with our protagonists was put to good use. If the trend of contemporary horror films is to invest in character and story, rather than on the villain (as was so prevalent in the 80’s) then this movie is a poster child for that, and this is the kind of horror film that I gravitate towards.

Sadistic Intentions just played at the Chattanooga Film Festival, and I suspect that it will be working the festival circuit for the better part of the summer. So, keep an eye out for it at a genre festival near you! There is no trailer yet, but as soon as one arrives, I will link it to this review.

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