Directed by Gregory Hatanaka.
Starring Shane Ryan, Scott Butler, Sarah Brine, Lisa London and Sal Landi.
The lines between reality and fiction, and good and bad blur when both a nihilistic detective and a serial killer’s affairs with a mysterious girl overlap.
When actor/director/all round auteur Shane Ryan decided to shoot Amateur Porn Star Killer in 2006 for a budget that might fill a small car with a tank of petrol, he probably didn’t expect it to strike in quite the way it did. The film picked up an audience, off the back of a little bit of controversy given the snuff aesthetics of it. It also came off the back of the found footage run of films inspired by the success of The Blair Witch Project. Two APSK sequels followed, with Ryan as the serial killer Brandon, filming his victims as he torments and kills them. He’d aspired for a different kind of cinema, but as is the way, sometimes you find yourself in other avenues. They all hit the DVD shelves and in Europe in particular achieved some buzz, to the point that there have been screenings and dissections of the films and they’ve become part of film theory text book.
Step forward to 2020 and Brandon is back, with Ryan returning to the role and becoming a more prominent onscreen figure in a more narrative driven film. With a skewing of timeline we cut between visions of Ryan throttling a young woman (Sarah Brine) who narrates the tale. Whilst we seemingly see the ‘end’ we also see their meeting and the building of a relationship, but here’s the thing…Brandon is a serial killer, with a prediction for death by asphyxiation. Unbalanced and brimming with pent up aggression and tormented rage, he’s a powder keg always on the verge of exploding, but something about Jeanie seems to evoke a sense of humility and caring within, which he was previously numb to. As their relationship forms we also encounter a detective, investigating a string of Brandon’s kills. He’s haunted by it, and also himself becomes increasingly allured by asphyxiation (this theme plays out in differing ways with each of the central characters in what is more psycho-sexual drama than the horror it will inevitably need to be categorised as to sell).
As the film plays with structure a little and opts for the enigma of arthouse, it’ll undoubtedly put people off who might want a simpler film. It evokes Refn, shades of Tarkovsky (It reminded me a little of The Mirror, with more extreme sexual subjects over faith/religion the former was fascinated by). Still, Hatanaka’s film takes a faceless, kind of underground film enigma like Brandon and makes him fascinating. No connection to the cinematic origins are particularly needed, it’s just a happenstance more than a devoted spinoff (which is a good thing), but for Ryan to revisit his creation, under the gaze of another film-maker makes for interesting cinema and alongside a strong vision from the director, Ryan delivers a powerhouse performance. With the sort of untethered complete immersion of a certain Nic Cage, Ryan powers out the big moments of explosive emotion (whilst keeping them authentic), but equally has that inner complexity during the quieter moments that evoke Travis Bickle.
The other main cast are excellent. Brine creates an interesting and engagingly complex character. A young woman with daddy issues who attaches herself to older male figures, and becomes attracted to an odd kind of auto-erotic asphyxiation group (with a great performance from Sal Landi as a spiritual guru). Scott Butler as Robert is also interesting to watch. His obsessions, guilt, the past and these sexual fascinations that slowly drive him made.
There’s perhaps too many montage moments but the films enigma, if you take to it, will allure you into repeat viewings. It’s a difficult one to market and sell, but most arthouse cinema is. Brilliantly shot, a good soundtrack and stellar performances make this an engaging piece of cinema, and furthermore, a unique and interesting way to reboot a pre-established character.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★
Tom Jolliffe is an award winning screenwriter and passionate cinephile. He has a number of films out on DVD/VOD around the world and several releases due in 2020/21, including The Witches Of Amityville Academy (starring Emmy winner, Kira Reed Lorsch), Tooth Fairy: The Root of Evil and the star studded action film, Renegades. Find more info at the best personal site you’ll ever see…https://www.instagram.com/jolliffeproductions/