This trio of short films from three of Britain’s most interesting horror filmmakers is based on the connection between sex and death. As you might expect from a concept so consciously provocative, it’s gory, gruesome and unflinching, and it’s all presented here in an uncut directors’ cut. But is it any good?
In Paul Hogan’s ‘House And Home,’ a yuppie couple invite a homeless girl to dinner, not telling her about their sinister postprandial plans. However, they may have taken on more than they bargained for. In Andrew Parkinson’s ‘Mutant Tool,’ a recovering addict and prostitute starts a new medication connected to a grotesque experiment with ties to Nazi Germany. Finally, in Simon Rumley’s ‘Bitch,’ a young man starts to reconsider his submissive position in his canine-themed S&M relationship.
Little Deaths of less of an anthology horror and more of a collection of shorts. There’s no wraparound story connecting everything; in fact, the title cards keep everything nice and separate. Even the colour themes are distinct: red, grunge and blue. What the shorts do have in common is that they are guaranteed to provoke the misogynist/about misogyny discussion. The violence against women that’s depicted here is confrontational rather than leering or lecherous. Whether there’s anything to it beyond the desire to shock is another matter, but the purpose of Little Deaths seems to present the viewer with something upsetting and repulsive, and it certainly does that.
Beyond the shocks, Little Deaths is somewhat hit and miss. Hogan (who gave us last year’s excellent low budget chiller The Devil’s Business) presents a rape-revenge story in a bourgeois setting. Well-shot, with strong performances and a (mostly) effective twisted sense of humour, ‘House And Home’ gets off to a good start but suffers from an ending that feels a little simplistic.
Parkinson (I Zombie: A Chronicle Of Pain) gives the film its most straightforwardly bizarre segment with ‘Mutant Tool.’ The story itself is willfully muddled, but there’s a strong sense of grimy hopelessness and an affecting turn from Jodie Jameson in the lead; spiralling out of control while exterior forces work against her. While there are some images that you won’t forget in a hurry, the narrative makes it the weakest of the three.
In terms of raw power, the best is kept for last with Rumley’s ‘Bitch’. Rumley is the highest-profile of the three, with The Living And The Dead and the stunning Red White And Blue both being festival favourites, and he takes the opportunity here to create something that’s genuinely very unpleasant. What makes ‘Bitch’ so powerful is the sensitivity of the script and the two excellent performances from Tom Sawyer and Kate Braithwaite. Rumley ensures that we understand their relationship and why it has worked up until now, before proceeding to take it apart. The conclusion is upsetting, revolting and offensive, but it has been earned by what has come before it. It’s very much like a Clive Barker short story; you can see where it has to go and you hope that it won’t. But, of course, it does.
Little Deaths is certainly not for everyone, and it doesn’t quite work even on its own intentionally niche-appeal terms. However, although this gruesome, deliberately provocative nightmare lacks substance, there’s some powerful stuff here (particularly in Rumley’s instalment) for the discerning midnight movie-goer. If you’re not a member of the cast-iron stomach crowd then leave it well alone, but if you’re looking for to be rattled then Little Deaths might be for you.