Frightfest 2019: Sadistic Intentions review

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A low budget horror thriller with some flaws, and a lot of talent.

Certificate: n/a
Director: Eric Pennycoff
Cast: Jeremy Gardner, Taylor Zaudtke, Michael Patrick
Release Date: TBC
Reviewer: Matt Edwards

When Kevin calls Chloe out of the blue with a drug deal that seems too good to be true, you want to bellow at your screen. Don’t do it Chloe! Of course, Chloe has no idea she’s in a horror film at the time and so she doesn’t realise how poor an idea it is.

To be fair to Chloe, there’s not a lot in the first half of Sadistic Intentions that does sell its genre. There’s a gruesome opening shot, there’s that title and there’s the music. For the first half of the film, all we really have are two people who don’t know each other navigating a conversation. There are undertones and allusions to a horror that we know is coming, but that’s it. So Chloe finds herself a good distance into the film before realising that she’s in the middle of a particularly unpleasant story. That it’s allowed to play out so slowly is an impressive display of confidence from first time feature director Eric Pennycoff. The two characters he has in this section of the film are well written and well performed. It’s compelling viewing, playing almost as a sort of burnout Before Sunrise.

Stu and Chloe form a bond as they wait for the elusive Kevin. Chloe is there to buy weed and Stu is there to work with Kevin on their heavy metal music. Only, where is he?  When Kevin finally does make an appearance, things take a turn for the psychotic. But we can’t be sure everyone is who they say they are, and we can’t be sure what everyone’s real intentions are.

After such a strong set up, the violent second half of Sadistic Intentions isn’t quite able to offer a strong enough payoff. That’s not to say it’s bad, as it isn’t. Rather, the first half is by far the stronger section of the movie, and we found ourselves missing the smaller, more considered approach of that section. It feels like the second half has gotten away from them a little. There are also a few issues with gore effects not quite landing. There are a couple that simply don’t work and serve to take you out of the film.

Still, even if it lacks invention in its second half, Sadistic Intentions remains a thoughtful, tense and disorienting thriller. The script credits its characters with enough intelligence that this writer ended up nodding in approval at times. Yes, exactly, don’t go back into the house. Just get out of there! There are moments that are incredibly unnerving and, even in the violence of it all, the shifting character dynamics remain engaging throughout.

Sadistic Intentions, then, is a low budget horror thriller with an engrossing set-up that it can’t quite manage to pay off. Leaning on his strong characters, director Pennycoff has delivered a film that marks him as a genre talent to watch out for.

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