First, a disclaimer. As stated by the opening title card, “Warning: This film contains flashing images that may cause discomfort or trigger seizures for people with photosensitive epilepsy. Viewer discretion is advised.” Dezzy (Dora Madison) is a struggling artist. Her pieces aren’t selling, and she’s having a hard time producing anything new. Luckily, she comes across a helpful mix of cocaine and DMT that makes her black out and paint up a storm. Unfortunately, it puts a small hitch in her getalong when her pal Courtney (Tru Collins) makes her a vampire. In order to finish her painting within the three days left of her deadline, she’s gonna need lots of drugs and lots of blood.
It’s a Shudder Original, which tend to catch my eye. I also had it recommended to me on a Facebook horror forum as one of the best movies of 2019, so I was enthusiastic at first. When I found out the lead was played by Dora Madison, whom I know only as Masuka’s daughter Niki on Dexter who served absolutely no purpose, my enthusiasm was dampened, but I soldiered on. And then she opened her mouth. As a womanist, I hesitate to use the word shrill, but good God. Right from the beginning, Dezzy’s default tone of voice is an entitled, hipsterish shriek, which she uses to holler nothing but complaints. Less than five minutes in, I stopped caring what happened to her. By the time Dezzy is in full vampire mode, with Madison wearing a third-person Gopro and channeling what looks like Kristy Swanson in Deadly Friend, I was well past being able to feel anything but pity for myself. And it’s not just me. More than once in the movie, complete strangers are so nettled by interacting with Dezzy that in a matter of seconds they threaten her with violence.
It’s repetitive. You can sum up the movie thusly (in no particular order): Dezzy screams, drives, smokes, snorts, fucks, vomits, and wantonly murders people. She gets extremely stoned and looks at the ceiling in a sea of dissolves and superimpositions. Oh, and she also paints sometimes. There seems to be a message that drugs are bad; Dezzy’s dealer Hadrian (Graham Skipper) warns repeatedly, “Start small,” “Even I don’t touch this shit,” and “You do too much of this shit and you’re done for.” You can interpret a theme of drug use as a metaphor for vampirism. It’s not clear what the solution is for Dezzy, though, since the stimulants and blood-drinking revive her creativity–she admits to not being able to paint in the months she was clean. So are drugs harmful or just what Dezzy needs to give her career a real shot in the arm?
Okay, okay. Making movies is hard work, this is several someones’s baby, I’m not gonna just completely piss all over the whole thing. I love the cinematography. Check out this gorgeous sunset:
I totally missed this during the movie, but while looking for images for the post, I saw these clever inversions of religious symbols (in addition to the two stills under the first paragraph, in which Dezzy is worshiping her painting of an evil Jesus/angel figure): the upside down cross and reverse benediction hand:
I did perk up briefly during a threesome between Dezzy and Courtney, even though the third party is played by Rhys Wakefield, who’s best known for being this guy from The Purge:
I rarely recommend flat-out avoiding a movie entirely, and I’m not doing that here. Other people seem to enjoy it; it has a solid 90% critic rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Whether I like her or not, Dezzy is a strong woman who takes what she wants regardless of the consequences, which can be rare and refreshing in a movie. Give it a look if you’re in the mood for something to delight the senses (there’s some nice synth pop and metal when Dezzy’s not squawking).