Little Deaths Fails on Every Level

Little Deaths wants to shock you.  It wants to brutalize you the way you may have been brutalized by the films of Lars Von Trier or Takashi Miike. It fails at this.

Little Deaths is a portmanteau horror film, and if you know me you know that I love a good portmanteau horror. Creepshow; Tales From the Crypt; The House that Dripped Blood; Tales From the Dark Side The Movie; Southbound, these are my bread and butter.  There’s nothing better than settling in with the cinematic equivalent of a short story collection.

Little Deaths is comprised of three stories by three different writer-directors.  None of them are worth the price of admission. 

House and Home, written and directed by Sean Hogan starts things out.  It features an upperclass married couple who prey on a homeless woman.  They lure her with the promise of a good meal and a few dollars only to drug and rape her. The film gives us a protracted scene of her sexual assault that feels like it is meant to brutalize the audience. The director wants this to be shocking and hard to watch, but it’s just so gratuitous and stupid that we feel mostly insulted. To really drive home just how gritty and grim and dark this tale is we are forced to watch  a man urinate oh the face of his rape victim.  It’s just grimy, grotty and cheap. Watching this I felt nothing approaching an emotion other than annoyance (if annoyance can count as an emotion).

It’s hard not to compare this to movies that treat this sort of subject matter with intelligence, and depth. 
The big twist in this tale is that the homeless woman and all of her friends are ghouls of some sort and that they eat the couple.  I realize that I didn’t warn you about spoilers, but frankly if you couldn’t see this “twist” coming then you aren’t likely to be reading this anyway.

The middle story is Mutant Tool and it’s written and directed by Andrew Parkinson.  In it a woman tales an experimental drug synthesized from the semen of a mutant man who is being tortured. It has something to do with Nazi scientists or something. It never really makes any sense and I honestly had trouble focusing. I suppose it’s supposed to have a sort of Human Centipede vibe, but really it fails on every level.

The final story, Bitch, is written and directed by Simon Rumly. In it a bartender is in an abusive relationship and gets revenge by feeding his girlfriend to dogs. That’s supposed to be a clever twist you see. We have been treated to scenes of the boyfriend on a leash, being pegged while wearing a dog mask. Again, it’s supposed to be shocking but really, it isn’t. It isn’t even interesting. The biggest problem is that the “vicious” dogs all look incredibly cute and friendly and it is impossible to believe that they would kill and eat this woman.

Horror movies, good horror movies, can terrorize. They can unsettle. They can horrify.  The amateurish urge to shock, or gross out undercuts all of those.  When the creator lacks subtlety and skill, they can fall back on the naked attempt to spark revulsion and revulsion is only interesting when it is in service to something else. This film has nothing to say, and spends much too long saying it.

I honestly want to write and direct my own horror film now. I know that no matter how badly I fail in execution, at least I will not have made Little Deaths.