Review: Dreaming Purple Neon (2016)

Crimson Quill’s Appraisal #648

Number of Views: One
Release Date: October 31, 2016
Sub-Genre: Independent Splatter
Country of Origin: United States
Running Time: 108 minutes
Director: Todd Sheets
Producer: Amanda Payton
Screenplay: Todd Sheets
Special Effects: Marvin Blake, Jacki Butler, Stacy Weible, Michael Wulf
Visual Effects: Tony Masiello, Todd Sheets
Cinematography: Todd Sheets
Score: Toshiyuki Hiraoka
Editing: Todd Sheets
Studio: Extreme Entertainment
Stars: Jeremy Edwards, Eli DeGeer, Millie Milan, Grant Conrad, Jack McCord, Nick Randol, Antwoine Steele, Ricky Farr, Jolene Loftin, Ana Plumberg, Daniel Bell, Glen Moore, Stacy Weible, Jodie Nelles Smith, Dilynn Fawn Harvey, Rachel Lagen, Eve Smith

Suggested Audio Jukebox ♫

[1] Megadeth “Skin o’ my Teeth”

[2] Perturbator feat. Noir Deco “Technoir”

[3] Depeche Mode “Personal Jesus”

If there’s one thing that makes my sphincter clench, then it’s sitting around in a dentist’s waiting room, awaiting my number being called. Here are two handfuls of reasons why it gapes so. [1] The anticipation – Imagine someone informing you that they’re about to flatten your testicles between a pair of house bricks, then assuming position either side of the little fellas, brandishing said house bricks. That there is anticipation and the very worst kind I might add. Awaiting dental surgery comes a pretty close second. [2] The needle – nobody likes the needle. The needle means well and is rather splendid at numbing the area prior to blitzkrieg (we hope) but it’s long, pointy and has no business whatsoever lurking anywhere near our gums.

[3] The drill – We’ve all seen The Driller Killer right? Nuff said. [4] The invasiveness – Having three lubricated digits slid into your anus is invasive, but at least there’s a slim chance you’ll get your prostate milked as an eleventh-hour giveaway. No such luck here. [5] The saliva – There’s something way too ironic about drowning in one’s own slobber whilst sat in the dentist’s chair. We cannot help but drool a little and the on-hand dental nurse is never quite fast enough with that oral vacuum cleaner of hers. While we gargle on our own bile, she’s desperately attempting to detach this suction device from our tongues and paying little mind to the fact that our skin color has changed from lemonade pink in hue to purple neon during the interim.

[6] The pain – Should the needle have failed to do its job, then the pain becomes inevitable. Having one’s infected filling bored through and scraped with a hook proposes little in the way of amusement and toothache is right up there with an ear infection for things that can make you cry “mommy!” [7] The lecturing – No “I’m sorry about any discomfort you may have felt” or “congratulations for not slipping out of consciousness and taking it like a little trooper”. Instead, it’s “you need to start taking better care of your teeth or I’ll have you back in for a root canal before you can flash me a whitened smile. Now begone with you heathen before I change my mind”.

[8] The complete lack of Novocaine – What do they only break that shit out for special occasions or something? Cheapskates. [9] The payment – You read the bill correct, not only must you suffer all this emotional angst and dull pain, but that token lollipop you’re clutching onto proudly is about to set you back eighty bucks. Fuck dentists man! Hygienists too. Just smash ’em all out with a baseball and be let’s be done with it shall we? [10] The deep psychological scarring – Chances are, our first trip to the orthodontist will be at an age tender enough to leave us perpetually wired for fear. As we all know, fear is the mindkiller, fear is overwhelming, fear knows not how to relent, only to forcefully suggest we wince at its very persistence. I fear the dentist’s surgery greatly and, if there’s one thing I’ve learned from Todd Sheets’ shiny new nightmare maker, Dreaming Purple Neon, then it’s that it most certainly isn’t “safe”.

I must make a frank admission before we strap into the dentist’s chair as I wasn’t familiar with Sheets until I happened across a review by my good friends over at The Slaughtered Bird and have my head hung in shame at this very moment. You see, this dude has amassed almost forty feature film credits over a career spanning four decades and should really have flagged up on my radar long before now. On the plus side, after having a bloody good time with his pre-apocalyptic pot-boiler to the tune of excited squeals on numerous occasions, I now have a full back catalogue to peruse at will and it would be thoroughly unthinkable not to do precisely that. What he achieves here on what I’d assume to be a rather skimpy budget is downright staggering and, as a loyal town crier for the independent horror scene, it’s my absolute honor to name-drop the hell out of him.

It ordinarily takes around five minutes to readjust any bars of expectation and be attuned to the film at hand and, in that time, we’re taking to the skies for some expertly shot bird’s-eye views that reveal quickly the kind of ambition he’s packed in his kit bag. Moreover, the shot composition is exquisite through the opening sequences and lends a far more upmarket flavor to proceedings than we could possibly have been anticipating. We’re talking multiple locations and introductions to numerous different characters, dotted all over the city. For the time being, we have no idea how he’ll pull them all together for a group hug but each have their own idiosyncrasies and a more colorful collective you’d be hard pushed to find. How about a little meet and greet to get things rolling?

Okay so first up there’s small-fry hoodlum Tyrone (Ricky Farr) and his jheri-curl sporting sidekick Ray Ray (Antwoine Steel), and we’ve joined them just as they’ve taken care of business much to the abject horror of their secretary Cat (Millie Milan). If Cat was under any illusion that she was working for gangsters, then the stashed bundle of drugs and firearms concealed within Tyrone’s office space has cleared up any confusion here.

Time to hand in that notice then? You’d think right? But Cat opts instead for snatching the bundle, with full intention of shopping her horrible boss in to the powers that be. Fair enough girl, if you insist, but be sure not to deviate from your route as it won’t take long for these crime pays crackers to sniff a rat you know and they’ll be straight on your purty little tail feathers once they do, sweet thing.

Best friends may share shit but Cat’s bezzie Denise (Eli DeGeer) would no doubt have preferred to remain oblivious to the bombshell dropped on her as she winds down from a long, grueling shift at her place of employment. She’s got enough on her plate right now, what with her broody long-lost boyfriend Dallas (Jeremy Edwards) showing up announced and flashing her the puppy dog eyes.

His buddy Chris (Grant Conrad) has also turned up at the dentist’s to offer moral support as it’s looking more than likely that poor Dallas is about to have his heart compacted into spam. All these fresh admissions are more than Dr. Soloman Clark (Nick Randol) can cope with as he’s presently entertaining the last patient of the day, April (Ana Plumberg), and her mother (Jolene Loftin). Toss in Tyrone and Ray Ray and we’re got ourselves some lambs for the slaughtering.

Speak of the devilish, the nefarious Mr. Archer (Jack McCord) happens to possess the deeds for this building and is using its basement as his very own satanic knocking shop. If all goes accordingly to plan, he will succeed in his summoning of the Queen of Hell, Abaddon (Dilynn Fawn Harvey) and be poised to commence his ad hoc apocalypse. While upstairs it’s all bickering and rush job flossing, down in the lower levels, Archer’s minions are getting all ritualistic and generally causing surreptitious bedlam.

It turns out that the “purple neon” that Tyrone and Ray Ray have been peddling has a number of rather concerning side-effects and we’re not talking mild migraines and explosive diarrhea (although the latter evidently isn’t out of the question). I’ve seen some sore nipples in my time but never before have I been made privy to a pair of kestrel beaks like the ones on offer here as part of the package deal.

It’s not all pointy pleasures however as this potent blend of ultraviolet ooze also tends to leave one feeling mighty peckish and it’s nothing a few freshly uncoiled intestines won’t see good. Cannibalism is a given, the desire to maim and kill a foregone conclusion, and the waiting room upstairs is beginning to grow significantly more uncomfortable a hang-out.

Sheets stacks his dominoes carefully and is certain not to knock them down before time, instead building a tidy head of steam and preparing to bitch slap us into submission. Had I mentioned how abrasive his gloves are? Gentlemen, have you ever had your bag balls polished with industrial strength sand paper? Ladies, grasp those flaps for dear life as it’s just about to go somewhat live.

Dreaming Purple Neon then reveals its hand and the next hour or so is deliciously scarce in the breather department. If I had one criticism (and I’ll damn well make it constructive), then 108 minutes is perhaps twenty on the flabby side and a dash of tightening could have elevated this to an even loftier pedestal. That said, seldom have I witnessed such enterprise outside of the mainstream, and things build steadily to a crescendo that would have many of Sheets’ more moneyed counterparts at sixes and sevens. How does he achieve this unlikely feat? Through blood, sweat, tears and an entire cast and crew who are fully aware of their brief and committed to give the very best they can muster for the cause.

It’s hard to pick a favorite from such an eclectic bunch of backs-to-the-wall bunnies but two in particular are worthy of special mention here. Steel’s turn as tight-permed eighties throwback Ray Ray is incalculable and, like our darling Deadite thrasher Ashley J. Williams, much pleasure is gleaned from watching him surrender his cool in the heat of skirmish.

Meanwhile, De Geer is truly exceptional as the fretful Denise, and her histrionics perfectly showcase her ability as an actress with a bright future before her. To be fair, none of the cast fumble the baton, despite having to deliver some reasonably canned dialogue and, odds on, we’re having too much rooting tooting fun to split hairs. Dreaming Purple Neon is aware of its weaknesses but knows just how to make each of them work in its favor. As a direct result, the audience feels in on the joke.

Those of a more delicate disposition need not apply as this is independent splatter at its most stomach turning and I shall leave it until my sign off to surmise exactly how much sweet sickness Sheets shoehorns into his running time. But this is approaching as good as it gets with regards to grass-roots filmmaking and offers no end of inspiration to anyone looking to realize their dream as a director.

Dreaming Purple Neon is an anomaly, the ideal tonic to the kind of soulless studio-led dross we are spoon-fed on an all too regular basis, and I’m glad I jacked up, even if that means postponing my upcoming dentist’s appointment and suffering the indignity of having my face rot from the inside out. Now nurse, if you’d be so terribly kind as to fire up the oral vacuum, I’ve slobbered enough for one day. On second thoughts, where’s that chick with the nipple domes? Who needs a sodding lollipop anyhoots?

Crimson Quill’s Judgement: 7/10

Grue Factor: 5/5

For the Grue-Guzzlers & Pelt-Nuzzlers: I could write an entire testament about the splatter on the platter here and honestly haven’t the vaguest clue where to kick things off. Throats are slit, eyes gouged, scalps relinquished, testicles punctured by whirring drill bits, stomachs evacuated, newborn babies birthed and then sacrificed, guts juggled and chowed down upon, fingers subtracted, ax wounds fashioned, vital fluids siphoned, and I haven’t even skimmed the custard. Toss in sufficient bare flesh to fashion an American quilt and matching drapes from (both sexes I might add) and I’d say job’s a good ‘un, wouldn’t you agree?

Read The Redsin Tower Appraisal
Read The Orphan Killer Appraisal
Read The Orphan Killer: Bound X Blood Appraisal
Read Found Appraisal

Richard Charles Stevens

Keeper of The Crimson Quill

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  1. God, I hate the dentist too! It is like a necessary evil. This movie sounds very trippy and a throw back to the days of slasher heaven, the 80s. Good review, Rich. I shall check it out.

    1. Well worth your time Susan. What Sheets can achieve on a tiny budget is simply extraordinary. With a little more cash to play with, he truly could produce a classic I feel. Let’s hope he’s saving up…

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