A title like Sadistic Intentions comes with a certain expectation/bracing oneself, but writer-director Eric Pennycoff’s tightly wound debut is more interested in exactly what the title describes, and whether or not said intentions will come to fruition, than a violent payoff.
After a shocking prologue, we watch as Chloe (Taylor Zaudtke) receives a phone call from the deeply creepy, unseen Kevin (Michael Patrick Nicholson), who we assume is the one responsible for the carnage we just witnessed. He gets her to agree to chip in for a stash of killer weed, on the condition that she come out to his house to pick it up. Kevin’s metal bandmate Stu (Jeremy Gardner) arrives at this country mansion ready for practice, only to find this amiable stoner stranger and no sign of his friend.
As the duo wait for Kevin, they start to get to know each other and as Stu tries to get Chloe into metal and primal screaming, she starts to have a mellowing influence on the tightly wound, twitchy fellow. But where the hell is Kevin? And what exactly is the plan here?
For the bulk of its running time Sadistic Intentions is a two-hander and relies heavily on the performances from Gardner and Zaudtke. It’s one hell of a showcase for the former as the question of how much he knows, if anything, about what Kevin has planned comes into play, and his growing affection for his new acquaintance visibly struggles against his pride and arrogance. This is someone whose art is their identity; for Stu, it’s easier to assume that Chloe doesn’t get his kind of music, or was never going to like it, rather than accept the idea that he might actually enjoy a bit of a dance too. But while Gardner excels at playing a blowhard, he also finds moments of sensitivity, flashes of caring that clearly surprise even Stu.
Zaudtke gets less to play with than her scene partner but she works hard to keep Chloe from being a stoned pixie dream girl. She’s comfortable needling at this stranger and has dreams of her own, but she’s no fool, and when things do inevitably take a turn she steps up.
As mentioned, as confrontational as the title is, this is a film that is almost entirely about build-up and that’s where it really works. When Pennycoff does pull the trigger, the fact that we knew it is kind of the point, but it would have been nice if the film had been a little more tilted towards Chloe. It’s certainly a strong reminder of the violent entitlement of the male ego and the bullshit that can surround the artistic process, but it still kind of feels like it’s all about them.
With that being said, this is a striking and well-written debut with very good performances. It’s certainly an impressive calling card for Pennycoff and a timely condemnation of some deeply ugly artistic practices and attitudes.
Sadistic Intentions was seen and reviewed at Arrow Video FrightFest 2019.