Horror and romance do not seem like likely dance partners, but every once in a while, a director creates a film which teaches us love can be found in peculiar places and in those same places lurks something scary. Writer/director Eric Pennyoff makes his feature length debut by combining horror, romance, and the nostalgia for “real metal” in Sadistic Intentions...
...First, I would like to bring attention to the fact the cast of this film lists a grand total of four people. Larry Fessenden (Depraved, Like Me, The Last Winter) Jeremy Gardner (Bliss, The Battery), Michael Patrick Nicholson (We Are Still Here), and newcomer Taylor Zaudtke. I can already hear all the horror fans squealing fan-girl style over the mention of Fessenden’s name, so I am going to try to break it to you gently. Aside from one spoken line off-screen, Fessenden does not actually appear in the movie. But don’t leave yet! Blind dates often stretch the truth to get you interested and Sadistic Intentions is no exception. However, do not let the misleading cast list deter you as the film still has plenty to offer. The small cast creates intimate relationships which aids in sparking love as well as creating terror.
The first character introduced to the story immediately establishes himself as in control and sadistic, and all without even making a proper appearance on screen. Instead, we get the soft thumping sounds of a hammer, the visual of a blood-spattered rose, and the cries of a mournful father begging the question “Kevin, what have you done to my child?” From this brief introduction of the faceless character, we can be certain we would not swipe right on his online profile. So, it’s a good thing Kevin (Nicholson) does not play the role of love interest in this film.
The mystery of Kevin continues as we hear his voice via phone conversations, but the only physical presence available comes from a pair of hands painfully wrapping guitar strings around their fingers. As Kevin wraps the string tighter and tighter around his pained digits, we overhear his plan to bring together a frustrated bandmate and an unsuspecting acquaintance who needs money. Besides the mysterious Kevin, the phone-call segment also introduces us to the desperate Chloe (Zaudtke) and exasperated Stu (Gardner). The bits of character development we gain in the opening fifteen minutes sets us up for a very slow burn. From the brief exchanges we know Chloe occasionally buys drugs from Kevin and Stu partakes in jam sessions with the mysterious drug dealer, but for the most part the slow build-up leads to the meeting of two strangers. Gathering in an out-of-town location, Stu and Chloe make themselves at home and patiently wait for their mutual friend. However, the newly acquainted couple soon realizes neither a drug deal nor band practice will happen tonight, and they were invited to the lavish house under false pretenses. So, we have to wonder, did something terrible happen to Kevin? Or is this crafty pain-obsessed metal-loving drug-dealer playing matchmaker?
Expecting Kevin to arrive later in the evening, Chloe and Stu sit down to drink and smoke and participate in awkward get-to-know-you conversations. Stu’s a bit guarded, easily agitated, and becomes further put on edge because of the bubbly-friendly behavior of Chloe. Desperate to find a connection, the two bond over music even though their tastes differ greatly. The heavy metal soundtrack exists as the musical backdrop for the duration of the film and also allows both Chloe and the viewer to see into Stu’s mind.
A major part of the movie seems like the plot to loads of rom-coms. An overly cheerful girl makes plans to get out and make something of herself, but first she must break through the gruff-exterior of the tough guy who we can only assume deep down has a softer side. But this is where the story diverges greatly from the familiar romance movies. The sadistic matchmaker’s plans include dismemberment and even one of the would-be lovers holds a relationship-ending secret. The characters’ disconnection from reality plays heavily in how they perceive each other and the lines between art and life become blurred as the seemingly casual encounter becomes deadly.
Jeremy Gardner brings so much to the horror genre as he can portray characters from one extreme to the next. In Sadistic Intentions we see him playing the awkward metal-fan and a guy who obviously comes off as mentally unstable, but since he is more stable than the really unstable Kevin, Gardner somehow manages to also play a hero of sorts. The “date” portion of the movie might lose the interest of some viewers but watching the chemistry develop between Stu and Chloe pays off. So, come for the Larry Fessenden, but stay for the Jeremy Gardner.
Go on a date with Sadistic Intentions when it releases on Digital on February 14th, 2020 from Freestyle Digital Media.
By Amylou Ahava
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