Crimson Quill’s Appraisal #174
Includes Mini-Appraisal of Last Halloween Post-Appraisal
Number of Views: One
Release Date: 1 October 2007 (USA)
Sub-Genre: Extreme Exploitation
Country of Origin: United States
Running Time: 83 minutes
Director: Eben McGarr
Producers: James Keitel, Eben McGarr
Screenplay: Eben McGarr
Special Effects: Shyla Butler
Visual Effects: Brandon Flyte, Nathaniel Caauwe
Cinematography: John Carreon, C.J. Roy, Grant Culwell
Score: John Francis Conway
Editing: John Francis Conway
Studio: My Way Pictures
Distributors: Synapse Films, Taurus Entertainment Company
Stars: Leslie Andrews, Charlie Trepany, John P. McGarr, Katherine Macanufo, Graham Denman, Stephen Geoffreys, Jan Villalobos, Andy Ignore, Justin Marco, Peter Partida Jr, Chris W King, Caerly Hill
Suggested Audio Hard Candy:
Dennis Haggerty & Aaron Moreland Family Tree
1. affected by physical or mental illness
2. feeling nauseous and wanting to vomit
The Keeper of The Crimson Quill is one very sick boy. Not the kind of sickness that a couple of Ibuprofen will put right, no projectile vomit or day off work kind of sick. The wrong kind. I have always had an intense fascination with extreme cinema and was raised on exploitation movies so very little shocks me at this point. After a while you build yourself a ‘lil resistance to the extremities you are presented so, when a film like Sick Girl comes along, you grab yourselves two handfuls and love it like a younger brother.
Eben McGarr’s film is quite unlike any other I have ever watched. It features all manner of sodomy, rape, child mutilation, molestation and execution and should be beyond reprehensible. But somehow it manages to walk this decidedly fine line, aided by a mercurial turn by a young lady who has a very bright future in the horror industry should she choose to take it. Leslie Andrews is a name that, until now, I was unfamiliar with but, after watching Sick Girl, one whom is squarely planted on my radar.
She plays Izzy, a mildly unhinged alpha-female with a penchant for a little southern cleansing. Izzy has been left to fend for herself and raise her little brother Kevin (Charlie Trepany) whom she dotes on, while her older sibling, who her admiration for has hit all kinds of wrong, is serving in the marines. Ferociously protective and willing to ‘deal with’ anyone deemed as a threat to her idyllic rural lifestyle, she gets her kicks via a barn which she populates with tortured keepsakes which she has collected through the course of the film.
The first thing that strikes you when watching Sick Girl is its lo-fi look. Shot entirely on video on a shoestring budget, McGarr’s film nevertheless owns you from the very first frame. It becomes clear that this is a film-maker sharing a unique vision and the events of the first five minutes convince us that this will be a trip worth taking alongside Izzy. After urinating in a nun’s face on a school bus and bagging herself a couple of reluctant playthings, we tag along as she returns to her homestead and settles back into her daily routine, albeit with an outbuilding heaving with shackled sinners.
Among these transgressors are a trinity of scamps who have taken it upon themselves to harass her younger brother at school. After snagging these rascals, she teaches them a little southern hospitality and McGarr treads a fine line here. Thing is, it’s not just mindless. He is a storyteller and these events are very much key to elucidating Izzy’s mental decline. For the most part she is shown in her natural habitat, sharing memories with Kevin and friend-of-the-family Barney (John McGarr), a hulking biker who Rocky Dennis would flat-out worship.
It’s these exchanges that keep Sick Girl grounded and the reason why, when McGarr lets the goat off the rope so to speak, the impact is that much more acute. Speaking of billies, the scene where Izzy creates a human yukka child with a blunt hammer and the accompanying audio of Gary the Goat by Dennis Haggerty and McGarr himself, is the stuff of legends. There is underlying humor but it’s as inky as it is inappropriate, making for a rather delectable treat. By the time Izzy has her MacGvyer-ed strap-on out, it’s downright debauchery and we see just how sick this girl actually is.
What’s arresting about McGarr’s treatment is that there are defined story arcs for Izzy, Kevin and Barney and it hints at a totally functional makeshift family unit. She doesn’t just kill instinctively, more impulsively, and the restraint used in a standout interaction with a deluded motorist attests to the restraint he uses throughout. It’s a balancing act for sure, but in Andrews he has a leading girl capable of spinning the plates. Sure, there’s stunted dialogue to deliver but its the erratic sickness which she conveys so utterly convincing which makes her turn all the more incredible.
Horror devotees will be thrilled to see Stephen Geoffreys (Fright Night, 976-Evil) making a succinct appearance as a vermin-loving schoolteacher who is gloriously overplayed. It’s like the eighties all over again. But ultimately it’s Izzy who raptures. Andrews plays her with a hint of Ellen Page and dash of Angela Bettis, with girl-next-door charm and disarming peepers which snare you with kindness and obliterate any defenses.
Sick Girl represents something of a triumph in my books. Forget production values and leave your inhibitions behind for 83 minutes, and you will be rewarded by grass-roots indie film-making at its most honest and bizarrely moving.
Crimson Quill’s Judgement: 7/10
Grue Factor: 4/5
For the Grue-Guzzlers: Ho ho ho, Gary likes nothing more than to carve off a member. So you know, Gary also likes pissing on the clergy, snapping appendages Misery-style, slicing throats and embedding woodsman’s axes in craniums. Don’t get me started on sex aids, I Spit, Piss and Dump on Your Grave would be a fitting mantle for this uncivil deflowering.
Last Halloween (2011)
Suggested Audio Candy:
Gillian Gerardo Don’t Let Go
After tasting Leslie Andrews‘ sickness, I was like a rat in a flume and shot straight to IMDb to find out more about this fascinating femme fatale. Last Halloween is a short by John Stewart Muller which clocks in at just shy of seven minutes and tells the tale of Matt and Sarah (Andrews and the equally superb Kit Williamson), a somewhat kooky couple who share a somewhat exclusive bond.
It plays out at a Halloween party where his philandering gets him in a spot of hot water and that is all the synopsis you need at this point. What I would implore you to do post-haste is to click the link at the close of this analysis-lite as seven minutes of everyone’s time should be invested on viewing this little beauty for yourselves. Muller’s love for horror is there for all to see and, indeed, there is audio and paraphernalia littered throughout to attest to such. There’s a delicious twist in the tale of course and, at such a fleeting running time, it marvelously encapsulates all that is good about short film-making. Andrews and Williamson share an intoxicating chemistry which could effortlessly stretch a full-length feature and Last Halloween is a real prize pumpkin.
Crimson Quill’s Judgement: 8/10
Grue Factor: 3/5
Keeper of the Crimson Quill
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