Crimson Quill’s Appraisal #391
Number of Views: Two
Release Date: 18 October 2014 (USA)
Sub-Genre: Body Horror
Country of Origin: United States
Running Time: 15 minutes
Director: Jeremiah Kipp
Producers: Adam Ginsberg, Rob Dimension
Screenplay: Jerry Janda
Special Effects: Daniel Mazikowski
Cinematography: Steve Adams, Jeffrey S. Gould
Editing: Jeffrey S. Gould
Studio: Action Media Productions
Stars: Kelly Rae LeGault, Thomas Mendolia, Jill di Donato, Jerry Janda
Suggested Audio Candy
Kenny Larkin “Integration”
The body horror sub-genre has always enthralled me. Among the directors that have become known for teasing the boundaries have been David Lynch, Stuart Gordon, and Canadian master of the macabre David Cronenberg. My fascination with decay, mutilation, and mutation began with the latter’s deranged double act of Shivers and Rabid; two grotesque and equally brilliant features about parasitical manifestation which took a direction few film-makers were courageous enough to examine at the time. More recently I have been impressed by the Soska Twins’ American Mary which focused on the recent trend for body mutilation for the sake of vanity, and Éric Falardeau’s little known Thanatomorphose, which soundly covered the decay side of things. All the aforementioned have one thing distinctly in common; that being they all stay with you indefinitely after the end credits have rolled.
Jeremiah Kipp’s Painkiller is a fifteen-minute short which is very much at home in such company and offers horror at its most biological and unnerving, supplying a sharp shot of perversion and leaving its addressee writhing in their very skin. Like Shivers, it locates the equilibrium between pain and pleasure and suggests they be far more at home together than we realize. In my first acting role last summer I volunteered to take every last strike authentically as I played host to a hundred and fifty blows to both the face and abdomen, ending up with bruised ribs, busted lip, and a dash of the Merricks for my troubles. Bizarrely enough, I found the experience to be utterly intoxicating, and hold fond memories of the battering I received that day. In Spike Lee’s brilliant The 25th Hour, Edward Norton requests a beating at the hands of his lifelong best friend before undertaking a long-term prison sentence as he wishes not to be labelled the pretty boy upon his arrival. However, I propose that this was not the only motivation for his thorough pummeling.
Painkiller tells the tale of two fresh-faced scientific engineers played by Kelly Rae LeGault and Thomas Mendolia who concoct an organism capable of ingurgitating pain and replacing it with pleasure. Naturally the pair are invigorated by the possibilities of their research and the implications it could have on the development of treatment for terminal disease, thus they take their obsession one stage further and the female allows for the parasite to be hypodermically planted into her spine, securing itself to her central nervous system to test its effects first-hand. Once it pinpoints each pang of pain; it frees up endorphins and this appears to be a satisfactory pay off.
However, despite the male party’s insistence that their creation not be labelled a parasite, it does what any opportunist barnacle would do in such circumstances and changes her entire perception of agony whilst defying reason entirely. She begins to crave it and, as you would suspect, sexual perversion plays a part as what better way to channel such yearning than through the most potent tool we have in our possession… our own sensuality. Things grow debauched somewhat briskly and, before we know it, a simple cock-ring isn’t enough to heighten her enthusiasm for coital exchanges and increasingly deranged hankering for S&M become necessitated.
Enter a third-party and it is there that Painkiller spins us soundly on our spots. Jerry Janda wrote the screenplay and also takes on the role of the perplexing suit offered in on the pair’s secret. At first he appears somewhat rigid and seemingly inconsequential to events but this couldn’t be farther from the truth once things begin to gestate. By the end, which comes wonderfully out of left-field, his performance evolves into something far more than simply a willing ear and nodding response, and Janda handles the role with aplomb. All four pivotal turns are excellent, and LeGault’s commitment to her character is truly commendable but it is Janda’s that truly caught me off-center.
Searching to constructively critique Kipp’s work has proved fruitless on all three occasions I have probed his extensive library as he has such a brilliant handle on every conceivable aspect and makes every minute count unerringly. This is what makes him such a dab hand at short films as opposed to full-length features and the only negative I can find with Painkiller is actually a cunningly disguised positive. It’s not that fifteen minutes isn’t sufficient to encourage our wits to successfully vacate their native surroundings but it is such a fascinating concept that it’s just praying to be fleshed-out further. More, in this case, really would be more and, on this evidence, LeGault would be ideal to elaborate on her character’s co-dependency further.
Anyone dealing with chronic pain on a daily basis will find much here that will resonate personally as you will know only too well the measures you would take to afford yourself respite from the discomfort. Likewise, those who are fascinated by body horror will need look no further than Painkiller for your demented kicks. A strong stomach will be required, not necessarily because excess is facilitated, but because of the psychological connotations of its brief and violent punctuations. I felt mildly nauseous by the close which, having had thirty years to reflect on Shivers and Rabid, suggests it to be a job very much done.
Crimson Quill’s Judgement: 8/10
Grue Factor: 3/5
For the Grue-Guzzlers: The violence, when administered by others, is swift and effective, but it is the enthrallingly spiteful self molestation scenes that will stay with you long after your stint has concluded. Kipp’s film marries pain and pleasure exquisitely during these moments and I have rarely felt aroused and sickened with such synchronicity than during Painkiller’s dispensation of disquieting glee.
Richard Charles Stevens
Keeper of The Crimson Quill
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