Crimson Quill’s Appraisal #650
Also known as Killer Ink, Parlor
Number of Views: One
Release Date: October 14, 2014 (Screamfest Horror Film Festival), June 19, 2015
Sub-Genre: Extreme Exploitation
Country of Origin: United States
Running Time: 96 minutes
Directors: Devon Downs, Kenny Gage
Producer: Thomas Mahoney
Screenplay: Devon Downs, Kenny Gage
Special Effects: Christina Kortum
Visual Effects: Scott Ramsey
Cinematography: Edd Lukas
Score: Adrianna Krikl
Editing: Ralph Jean-Pierre
Distributor: Gravitas Ventures
Stars: Robert LaSardo, Claire Garvey, Jordan James Smith, Tiffany DeMarco, Sara Fabel, Ben Whalen, Anthony Del Negro, Beth Humphreys, Joey Fisher, Gracie Finlan, Nik Goldman, Gabija Urniežiūtė
Suggested Audio Jukebox ♫
 Black Rebel Motorcycle Club “Beat the Devil’s Tattoo”
 Sara Fabel “Anarchy Parlor”
I’ll never forget my very first tattoo. I was young, dumb and very much in love or so I suspected at least. Moreover it appeared that these feelings were reciprocated. Thus after consuming a little alcohol to drum up the Dutch courage required to go under the needle, we ventured hand-in-hand to a nearby parlor and made shit official. As a hopeless romantic, I jumped straight in and ordered her name in a banner as there seemed no better proclamation of undying devotion than that. She on the other hand exercised a dash more common sense and selected a symbol that represents endearment. Needless to say, she dumped me soon afterwards and I was left ruing my ill thought out decision. The thing is, while more cautious from that point forward, once that bug bites, it can become a rather moreish pastime. Seven tattoos down the line and I feel that I’ve finally scratched this particular itch sufficiently. If there were any lingering doubts, then 96 minutes of Lithuanian “hospitality” have pretty much snuffed them out.
When Eli Roth’s Hostel hit the multiplexes in 2005, general consensus was that the boy did good. Unfortunately the Slovakian tourist board were a little less enamored as they felt it portrayed their proud nation in a none too favorable light. A decade or so later, Devon Downs and Kenny Gage’s directorial debut, Anarchy Parlor, looks set to do much the same thing for Lithuania and the similarities don’t end there either. You see, no attempt whatsoever is made to reinvent the wheel here, and instead, it relies on familiarity as its chief bargaining tool. Just to be clear, I don’t regard that as a negative as I’m more than willing to adjust my expectations accordingly. But those seeking ingenuity may wish to pack their bags right now as it’s slim pickings on that front I’m afraid.
Straight off the bat, we are thrown into a fully loaded licensed techno rave somewhere in the town of Vilnius, the stomping ground for a mixed sex group of shot-guzzling friends on their pre-university vacation. Things are already getting a tad hazy as the drinks have been flowing freely and sound judgement is at a distinct premium. With the others appearing to wind down, Brock (Ben Whalen) strikes it lucky and secures the undivided attention of a heavily painted Lithuanian Suicide Girl named Uta (Sara Fabel).
It turns out that Uta works at a nearby tattoo parlor as an apprentice and Brock’s friend Amy (Tiffany DeMarco) has been dying to get some killer ink to commemorate her trip, preferably something “culturally significant”. Soundly inebriated, the pair wander off with their guide through the poorly lit back streets until they reach their destination. Had I mentioned that Uta has a tendency to get a little sexually hostile? In the history of dick moves, few have been as neon-lit as the one Brock and Amy just made.
You see, this particular parlor has been passed down through generations of the Cuzas family. Currently the responsibility lies with a bearded man known simply as The Artist (Robert LaSardo) and he wastes little time firing up the needle. While Uta and Brock head downstairs to the basement, presumably for some angry sex and hair pulling, he gets to work on his new client, openly offering the girl insight into how body art no longer represents counter-cultural individuality in his eyes.
What formerly symbolized an individual’s resistance against convention now reeks of populist conformity, and considering the care and attention he puts into his intricate designs, it would be all too easy for bitterness to creep in. However, The Artist is the consummate professional, and far more concerned with setting her racing mind at ease than continuing to vent his annoyance. Now that’s customer service.
No prizes for guessing who fails show up for their continental breakfast the following crack of dawn. Memories are blurry amongst the remaining holidaymakers but something about Brock and Amy’s exit has them feeling a touch uneasy. Strangers in a strange land, they cannot hope to lean on the police as it’s only been a matter of hours since their friends’ disappearance and the language barrier rules out getting this load off their chests to the powers that be.
Thus the only conceivable course of action to a group of hung over twentysomething tourists is to play detective and trace shit back to the parlor Amy had mentioned on departure the night previous. Their timing is impeccable as The Artist just so happens to be running a group discount deal at this very moment.
Anarchy Parlor starts briskly and confidently maintains that forward momentum right up to its closing frame. That said, while Downs and Gage ensure that we are never found wanting for incident, the bare-bones screenplay proves a stumbling block and the delivery often feels forced and unnatural. The young actors try their level best to deliver some fairly hammy dialogue convincingly, but aside from DiMarco, mostly come across as plain annoying. This needn’t be a game changer as the pay-off with a film such as this lies in watching such cretins die horribly and I’m thrilled to report that The Artist has us well and truly covered in that department. And boy does he have us covered.
While both Fabel and LaSardo excel in their roles as tormentors, it’s the latter we simply can’t avert our eyes from. Interestingly every last word that escapes his mouth feels true, and what could have been in exercise in over-the-top execution winds up way more chilling because of his fiercely controlled performance. Calm, well-mannered and strangely comforting, The Artist is also nigh-on unflappable in a fix and not a single one of his actions are on account of either wing or prayer.
LaSardo single-handedly elevates what primarily plays by-the-numbers above mere B-grade fodder and every second spent dangling in his decked out dungeon feels suitably asphyxiating. Meanwhile his partner in crime is considerably less measured in her approach and Fabel threatens to bust free from her short leash quite marvelously as things progress.
Despite any shortcomings, Anarchy Parlor is a more than worthy addition to the woefully over-populated “torture porn” sub-genre and for reasons as clearly defined as a Yakuza incision. For starters, LaSardo grants us no end of delicious downtime with one of the most despicable and bizarrely amiable movie psychos in recent memory. I shit you not, The Artist really is all that and a tube of black ink besides. Secondly, the directors remember the very first cardinal rule of filmmaking 101; that being to facilitate the arousal of their intended audience. Like Hostel before it, this walks just the right drunken line between euphoria and the world of pain tucked away in its innards. So the next time you’re passing through Lithuania and are feeling particularly flighty; remember this Grueheads – The Artist also does clitoris piercing. Now that I would pay top Euro to see.
Crimson Quill’s Judgement: 7/10
Grue Factor: 4/5
For the Grue-Guzzlers & Pelt-Nuzzlers: Pain and pleasure. Consider yourselves catered for on both counts as the anarchy going down in this shady parlor is both kinds of wrong and only too happy to pay up with the money shots. Thankfully most of the slick splatter showcased is of a practical nature and those with an aversion to either needles or scalpels may fall at the wayside long before the buzzing ceases. When bare dermis isn’t being peeled away from the marrow like rice paper and used to adorn The Artist’s canvas, it’s being flaunted flagrantly in what could best be described as the ultimate in client satisfaction. Personally I’m all about Uta and she can paint my wagon red anytime she so wishes.
Richard Charles Stevens
Keeper of The Crimson Quill
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