Little Deaths Review

Movie: Little Deaths
By: Maniac E
Date: September 1, 2011

Every Little Death is one

Coming from three of the new wave of independent British horror directors, Sean Hogan, Andrew Parkinson and Simon Rumley (in order), this anthology travels to dark and depraved areas of the human libido not normally presented on film. I can't lie and say the movie is an overwhelming success, but I must salute the film for daring to push normally fig-leafed buttons. This is a collection of 3 short films that loosely touch on their subjects of rather twisted stories about sex and death. I guess "Little Deaths" is a good title for the movie considering that the French use these words as a metaphor for orgasm. So the title fits each short in this collection.

The first part: Heart And Home

The first is a meditation of the bourgeois class' mastication of indigent people. A seemingly normal couple lure homeless women to their home with a faux-religious tale of aiding he less fortunate and, somewhere between the hot bath and home-cooked meal, drug and bind them. Both husband and wife proceed with some sex abuse, but looks like this time they messed with the wrong homeless girl.


Hogan lenses this story with a variety of styles, with cold and perfectly composed shots observing the couple in their home at the start before more relaxed camerawork takes us out onto the chilly streets. An initially benevolent dinner scene throbs with palpable class tension, Hogan effectively conveying Lucy's disorientating haze as her descent into degradation begins. The score and sound design also carry a real air of menace, but it's the acting from the three leads that really communicates the seething sexual politics in their collusion. Hogan manages to be graphic without being gratuitous, keeping the suspense high throughout Lucy's seemingly hopeless ordeal. A last-minute curveball takes the situation into a completely unexpected realm; while it may initially seem cheap, it works as a cheeky reminder of the sort of film you're watching and the sort of stories that inspired it, offering a cathartic payoff that's difficult to deny after the horrific humiliation you've endured along with the piece's 'victim'.


The second part: Mutant Tool

Bodily fluids are the crux of Parkinson’s “Mutant Tool,” the title of which at first seems to refer to a device briefly seen in the collection of Dr. Reece —paging DEAD RINGERS. But it actually has a different, more euphemistic meaning that we soon discover as we follow Jen , a former prostitute and recovering drug addict whose boyfriend/former pimp Frank is in cahoots with Dr. Reece, who prescribes Jen a new medication. He explains that any unpleasant side effects are nothing to worry about, though we know better…but what is Jen’s plight’s connection to the tortured person being kept chained up in a dingy lab and “harvested” in a way I’m not even going to begin to describe? Parkinson sustains the grisly mystery while generating sick laughs via the physical nature of that captive, and comes to a queasily effective climax.


It's actually something of a shame that Parkinson felt the need to take his story to such extremes, as the early scenes following Jen's attempts to sort out her life are very engaging. Jamieson emotes convincingly and proves a game conspirator as the story takes her to ever more upsetting and ridiculous places - in fact, she is so good that you almost wish Parkinson would ditch his B-movie trimmings to further develop her side of the story. That said, this would perhaps make the piece incongruous in this company, and as such, Mutant Tool just about works as a gonzo sci-fi headfuck. The fact that the narrative avoids easy explanation works in its favour, as no amount of back-story could ever satisfactorily justify the concept at its core. The segment is well shot, its harsh realism working to make its revolting conceit even more unsettling, Jen's spiral into medication-fuelled madness effectively punctuated by occasional flashes of Saw-like mania. Taken on its own, Mutant Tool is an intriguing oddity, but unfortunately in this company it's the runt of the litter, and as such probably works best sandwiched between its superior siblings.


The third part: Bitch

This one is a rather bleak drama about sexual perversion, power play and dependency. Dogs play a dominant role in the plot, so the title has some irony to it. The look of this part is also on the gritty side, playing a lot with tints which are overused but work well in some key scenes. Like "Red, white and blue" this is rather a character study culminating in a revenge that ends with no winners at all. Definitely the best of all three with a great and high impact finale that benefits from the perfect choice of music.


Rumley's tale works better than the other two because it focuses solely on a believable relationship between two sympathetically damaged souls. Sawyer and Kate Braithwaite give their all, their feelings of yearning for and disappointment in each other unmistakably etched in their characters' faces. Rumley highlights how their deviation leads to feelings of betrayal and self-doubt, the couple's seesawing between a need for and rejection of one another becoming a tragic but all too familiar motif. You really feel for Pete as he takes it on the chin time after time, and to his credit Rumley also makes you see Claire as an appealingly rounded character, dissatisfied with her boyfriend's aimlessness and crippled by her irrational fear of something unavoidable in everyday life. The final straw for Pete comes in a devastating scene of emotional sadism, Claire doing everything in her power to belittle the love of her life. His revenge is made all the more sad and uneasy for its meticulous preparation and cold-blooded execution, the film building to a deeply disturbing climax made all the more discomforting by the deliberately 'uplifting' soundtrack.


The lack of a connecting narrative device means that Little Deaths ends without an overall emotional payoff; common general theme notwithstanding, the experience is more akin to watching a short-film showcase than a full-fledged feature. Two-thirds of those shorts, however, are strong enough to make Little Deaths well worth a watch. Little Deaths shows potential and it shows that British film makers can produce some sort of twisted fantasies tales all around.



Little Deaths


Little Deaths


Sean Hogan, Andrew Parkinson, Simon Rumley






Scott Ainslie, Mike Anfield, James Anniballi