From Alice Cooper’s and Black Sabbath’s occult-inspired lyrics and gory theatrics, to Rob Zombie’s foray into directing his own features, to films like Trick or Treat, The Devil’s Candy, and Deathgasm— heavy metal and the horror genre have always gone hand-in-hand. Both genres are known for (and celebrated) for pushing their material to the limits, often relying on violence and shock value for art. But how far is too far? With the latest heavy metal-horror film pairing, Eric Pennycoff’s SADISTIC INTENTIONS, we have a great time finding out just how far one jaded metal musician will go to achieve levels of creativity and inspiration for his music.
The film’s chilling cold opening shot of an off-white rose, splattered in blood, shaking from the movements of an off-screen, daytime murder sets us up for the violence that is still to come, before we jump to meeting Stu (Jeremy Gardner) and Chloe (Taylor Zaudtke), bandmate and friend, respectively, of the mentally unstable Kevin (Michael Patrick Nicholson), who lures them over to a mansion for a night of unsettling metal mayhem.
Where SADISTIC INTENTIONS differs from Deathgasm and The Devil’s Candy, however, is within its choice to be slightly more critical of its metal musician characters than portraying them as heroic. Where the aforementioned films served as love letters to the metal genre, SADISTIC INTENTIONS is slightly more cautious with its tale, as it is told moreso as a fable to those who go too far for their love of it. Not that its characters are one-note villains necessarily, either. The film’s most complex character finds himself positioned between a rock and a hard place, as he feels conflicted between being bored of the once “intimidating” and “dangerous” metal genre that he now describes as “just easy”— while still not wanting to go as far as to hurt people in the process of finding inspiration for his sinister lyrics and vocals.
I was pleasantly surprised to see Michael Patrick Nicholson in a role that is wholly more sinister than his turn in last year’s under-seen Are We Not Cats. He, at times, crosses the line to campiness as the psychopathic Kevin, but still manages to admirably ooze Jack Nicholson in The Shining levels of bonkers-crazy. Nicholson is consistently interesting to watch in whatever role he has. However, the film’s standout is the beloved, bearded genre staple that is Jeremy Gardner, who many may recognize from The Battery fame and the soon-to-be-released, highly buzzed-about film Something Else. Gardner manages to inject much-needed charm into this contained cast, especially in a sequence in which he teaches Zaudtke’s Chloe how to unleash a guttural, metal scream. I dare you to not smile.
Pennycoff smartly allows us to spend a solid 40 minutes with the shared confusion of Chloe and Stu at the mansion, waiting for the impending arrival of Kevin, while simultaneously getting to know each other— before things get absolutely bananas by the film’s climatic pool scene. (Impressive use of practical effects in this sequence too, might I add.) We already had a sense that Kevin poses as a major threat from the film’s beginning, but by the last half of the film, we learn that we may have another person to fear as well. The third act surprise (if you go into this completely blind like I did) should likely startle viewers, as their trust will shift when characters begin to reveal their true intentions.
Just when I thought that the film’s conclusion was about to require a highly questionable amount of unfeasible forgiveness, its satisfying finale completely won me back. We’re in 2019 post-#MeToo era, and Pennycoff is definitely not interested in letting trash men get away with their bullshit. I’ll leave it at that.
And metalheads fear not— the musical score is straight out of an instrumental, doom-metal album and is used sparingly enough that it never wears out its welcome. Think of something in a similar vein as Oceanwake or Pantera’s slower-tempo’d “10’s” song from their The Great Southern Trendkill album.
If you need your heavy metal-horror injection to hold you over before Deathgasm ever gets a much-needed sequel, look out for SADISTIC INTENTIONS. Heads will roll…actually, in this case, they’ll float.