SHOCK reviews filmmaker Spencer Parsons’ sophisticated true crime horror short BITE RADIUS.
Go to any horror film festival and sit through their shorts program and youre bound to find at least three phony baloney “hardcore” slogs where some schmuck does extremely unpleasant things to a poor lass, devoid of rhyme or reason. Indeed, short indie horror films like this tend to try to do one thing and that shock you for a few seconds before splitting the scene.
And they almost never do.
Because pointless cruelty is played out and lazy. Meaningless.
This past weekend, at the Fantastic Cinema International Film Festival in Little Rock, Arkansas, this writer encountered a short film that, from its outset, seemed as if it was aiming to follow that very same chick-killing, cut n’ run formula. But after a minute or two, it was clear that the picture had more on its mind.
The movie Im talking about is SATURDAY MORNING MYSTERY director Spencer Parsons disturbing, smart and stylish and mostly true crime drama BITE RADIUS, a long-form short (it runs just under half an hour) that manages to be a wholly satisfying cinematic experience. It certainly wallows in the dark side, with explicit gore that made even me wince, but it veers skillfully into black comedy and then, surprisingly, into authentic tragedy. Its a mini masterpiece, a film that examines the evil that grows out of boredom, ignorance and a complete lack of empathy.
BITE RADIUS stars Trevor Dawkins as a lowlife twenty-something scumbag named Peyton who wakes in his filthy underwear, in his filthy apartment (Parsons paints an accurately art directed picture of meth-head squalor) to discover the girl he had sex with the night before, shot to death in his bathtub. Presumably, he did it and yet, he has no memory of the crime. This could be due to the fact he was just ending what was, by his foggy account, a 7 day coke and booze bender and certainly, the gun used to commit the crime is his…
Instead of alerting the authorities and taking his lumps, Peyton shuffles back to the couch and alerts his girlfriend Nicole (they apparently have some sort of open relationship that is only barely explained but doesnt really need to be) of the unfortunate turn of events, before settling back in on his diseased sofa to play video games.
Peytons girlfriend is played by Sophie Traub, who perfectly captures the brash trashiness of a young girl who is slave to thrills, the cheaper and more extreme the better. Seeing her saunter into Peytons rat-hole in her daisy dukes while ghoulishly grinning over the unspeakable scene is wonderfully repellent. A rational person would either flee the scene or convince her man to do the right thing, but Nicole finds herself fascinated and completely sexually aroused. She begins posing with the dead girl, taking selfies and then convinces Peyton to have impromptu (and graphic) sex on his disgusting living room floor (said floor shag results in the films best joke, when Nicole rolls over to show a rusty penny stuck to her flabby back, an aside that is subtle and yet perfectly defines the cheapness of the duo’s existence). But the more turned-on Nicole gets the more confused Peyton gets; hes rendered impotent by the experience while his scheming girlfriend is only getting started
To reveal more would be to damage the movies downspiral, though the story was in fact based on a true tale of two of the worlds most disgusting and clueless criminals. Both of the real deviants are doing hard time, and deservedly so.
Parsons makes what might be just another gore-porn romp into something emotionally complex and masterfully constructed. The ongoing tell tale heart device of the picture, the element that provides initial laughter, then unbearable anxiety and eventual heart-wrenching sadness, comes in the form of Peytons cell phone, whose pop-song ring tone keeps disrupting the action as the dead girls mother continues her quest to reach him and find out where her daughter is. Thats the beauty of the movie. It doesnt try to be funny, it just is because Peyton and Nicole are so incredibly stupid in their decisions. It doesnt try to shock you, but it does because of the unflinching nature of their crimes. And it doesnt artificially insert pathos, the melancholy stems naturally from the camera simply juxtaposing its final shot with a sound effect, leading us to imagine the shattering events that would follow.
BITE RADIUS has been doing the festival circuit for a year and rightfully earning acclaim.
Im not sure when and where you can see it, but see it you should. Maybe poke around in Parsons world by following his official Twitter feed and wait for word as to the film’s next move.