Whether it’s the disturbingly graphic crimes depicted in I Spit On Your Grave or the blatant “my dress overfloweth” attitude of Hammer films, I think most genre fans would agree that sex and horror’s relationship is one of the more prevalent and organic ones in the cinematic landscape. Little Deaths, an anthology film helmed by up-and-comers Sean Hogan, Andrew Parkinson, and Simon Rumley, is a tense and disturbing exploration of the darker side of sexuality – more specifically, sexual humiliation – whose success varies over the course of its three vignettes due to how wildly the stories shift tone without a proper framing device.
Hogan’s section, entitled House and Home, follows a wealthy couple (Luke de Lacey and Siubhan Harrison) whose dysfunctional relationship thrives on secretive “fun and games.” Inviting a young homeless girl named Sorrow (Holly Lucas) back to their home for a warm bath and food, the focus of the evening quickly shifts from philanthropy to sexual deviance and a splattering of body fluids that would make Jackson Pollock blush. Hogan’s is the most straight-forward of the bunch, right down the foreboding name of the couples’ guest, and while the ending is fun to watch play out, it’s too familiar to really leave an impression.
The film then veers into Cronenberg-ian territory with Parkinson’s Mutant Tool, which explores the relationship between drugs and sex, and shows the worst downward spiral this side of Jared Leto’s amputated arm. Trying to stay on the straight and narrow after attempting to kick her coke habit more than a few times, Jen (Jodie Jameson) visits Dr. Reece (Brendan Gregory) for help, who just happens to be a business partner of her former-pimp-turned-boyfriend, Frank (Daniel Brocklebank). After prescribing her an unnamed medication and assuring them that the side effects are nothing to worry about, she soon begins to have episodes that might or might not link her to a prisoner whose unique attribute is the key to creating a highly sought-after psychotropic that opens its user’s third eye for the ultimate trip-out. Parkinson’s entry is wildly different from the other two, straying a little on the abstract side of the film’s theme, and doesn’t really know where to lead its audience once it gets past the initial shock factor.
The final entry, Rumley’s Bitch, is the strongest of the three, going for a more realistic approach to the film’s central theme. Much like the couple in House and Home, Pete (Tom Sawyer) and Claire’s (Kate Braithwaite) relationship is off-kilter and somewhat violent. Claire embarrasses and dominates Pete, both sexually and otherwise, every opportunity she gets, going as far as to make him dress and act like a dog around their flat for kicks. Her one weakness, however, is the sight of real canines, which reduce her to a quivering, crying mess. After continually cheating on him and making him feel worthless, Pete concocts a plan to turn the tables, starting with the rental of a small storage shed nearby.
Without a wrap around, Little Deaths’ left me feeling cold and empathic of its characters and their plights, mostly due to Mutant Tool which feels like it belongs in another film. House and Home and Bitch function as the antithesis of each other, providing the bookends needed for a study of sexual degradation; both are revenge tales that have one sex flipping the tables on the other, while going through a mental or physical metamorphosis. Parkinson’s, however strange and unique it might be, includes that change of its central characters, but then focuses more on weirdness and piling extra bells and whistles onto its already out-there premise than being character-driven like its companions, stopping the thematic advancement of Little Deaths right in its tracks.