Directed by Sean Hogan, Andrew Parkinson, Simon Rumley. Starring Siubhan Harrison ("Victoria Gull"), Holly Lucas ("Sorrow"), Jodie Jameson ("Jen"), and Kate Braithwaite ("Claire"). Not Rated.
Source: Region 1 DVD (Image Entertainment)
Running time: 01:34:51
Aside from being a fancy term for orgasms, LITTLE DEATHS is a British anthology film that consists of three thirty-minute short films - each directed by a different filmmaker. Whereas the common anthology genre-film features a wraparound segment, the segments in this one are tied together through the common threads of sex, death, and flawed people who have some serious issues, not to mention the voyeuristic manner in which the film lets the viewer witness what should probably stay behind closed doors.
The first segment, HOUSE AND HOME, is directed by Sean Hogan, who was also apparently the backbone of the LITTLE DEATHS project and the person who brought together the filmmakers involved. This segment focuses on a truly demented married couple (pictured at the top of the review) who put on a religious facade and use the promise of food and a warm bath as a means of luring an unsuspecting homeless girl into their place of residence for some good ol' rape. It's evident right from the start that something isn't well with the married couple, and there's honestly not much of a character arc with the two of them. The surprise here lies not with the married couple, but with the homeless girl, which is obviously something I won't get into detail about.
Reviews I've read have referred to HOUSE AND HOME as the strongest segment of the film. I personally disagree, but I'll get to that later. HOUSE AND HOME serves its purpose. Not only is it effective as a short film, but the characters were so intriguing and the performances were so good that I could easily watch an entire feature-length centered on the married couple, their perversions, and their inevitable comeuppance. The issue I have with this one is the twist. It's not a bad twist by any means, but it comes from way out of left field, it seemed undeserved, and it felt like a cheap way to end the segment. To each their own.
Next up is a segment called MUTANT TOOL, directed by Andrew Parkinson. Aside from being the most bizarre segment, MUTANT TOOL is easily the most confusing of the three, although it's not confusing for the sake of it and one could argue that it's thought-provoking. Whatever the case, it still falls into the same groove as the first segment by featuring a mix of horror and sexual perversity. This one revolves around Jen - a recovering drug addict and former prostitute who still occasionally sees "clients" behind her boyfriends back. A doctor prescribes her a drug that he's suspiciously hush about for the most part, which will apparently help with her withdrawals. This coincides with two men who work in an underground lab and use the semen of an unwilling test subject to create drugs that are designed to "open the third eye" and create the most intense high imaginable. If you put two and two together, it's easy to figure out how the two plot threads collide.
MUTANT TOOL builds to an interesting reveal that ultimately ties everything together in a way that you wouldn't expect. I appreciate the idea that Parkinson was going for here, in that the reveal definitely makes you think about what you just saw, but it doesn't change the fact that it simply doesn't make a lot of sense. Again, this could have probably benefited from a longer running time because there's a lot to be explored here in terms of the Sci-Fi element. As for Jen. she's a well developed character given the short amount of time we're allowed to invest in her, and she's played well by actress Jodie Jameson. The weakest of the three, but not awful by any means.
The third and final segment is directed by a filmmaker who's the reason I sought this movie out in the first place. Simply (and aptly) titled BITCH, this segment is directed by Simon Rumley. To me, this was far and away the best and most satisfying segment of the three, and I'm not just saying that because I went into LITTLE DEATHS already invested in Rumley as a filmmaker. The focus of BITCH is a couple - Claire and Pete - who can only be intimate through bondage and sadomasochism. Claire dominates her boyfriend, seemingly both in and out of the household as she acts as a dominatrix of sorts behind closed doors and openly cheats on him while out in public. Literally and figuratively the dog of the household, Pete eventually lashes out at Claire in a bizarre and twisted manner, but also appropriate and darkly comedic.
What's interesting about this segment for me is that raises a lot of questions as to the functionality of couples who partake in BDSM. Are there certain lines that you don't cross, and when does it become "too much"? More importantly, how does one know what their limit is in terms of how much they can or are are willing to take? As Rumley's proven with RED, WHITE AND BLUE, he knows how to create flawed characters and successfully develop them throughout the course of the entire narrative by gradually revealing just enough at certain points rather than spelling everything out for you right away. Even up until the very end of this segment, Rumley keeps the surprises coming in regards to both the plot and character development. It should also be said that BITCH looks absolutely stunning, with a color palette that consists entirely of strong reds, blues, and purples.
LITTLE DEATHS is certainly one of the more interesting anthology films I've seen in a long time, and it's one that could potentially stick with you for a while. The common threads work for all three segments, and despite the film being the product of three different directors, LITTLE DEATHS has a consistent look and tone. While I do feel that Rumley's segment is the best of the three, there isn't a segment that stands out too much as being the absolute worst, which is a problem I have with a lot of anthology films that I watch. Twist endings, lots of sex and violence, and some generally taboo material are just a few of the things in store should you check out LITTLE DEATHS. Recommended.