Bordello Death Tales Movie Review
Written by Daniel Benson
Directed by Jim Eaves, Pat Higgins and Alan Ronald
Written by Jim Eaves, Pat Higgins and Alan Ronald
2010, 75 minutes, Not Rated
Eleanor James as Stitchgirl
Tina Barnes as Sharon
Sam Dacombe as Clown Victim 1
Harold Gasnier as Clown Assassin
Stuart Gregory as Graham
Cy Henty as Daniel Cain
Julian Lamoral-Roberts as Dr Whale
Danielle Laws as Destiny
Natalie Milner as Madame Raven
Nick Rendel as Mitchell
It’s always good to get a new film through from Brit director Pat Higgins (KillerKiller, The Devil’s Music), and it seems like altogether far too long since one hit my review pile. In the case of Bordello Death Tales, he doesn’t get all the plaudits as it’s an anthology movie he’s put together with two other up and coming directors, Jim Eaves (The Witches Hammer, Bane) and Alan Ronald (Jesus Vs. The Messiah).
BDT centres around Madame Raven’s bordello, with all the stories having a connection to the establishment. Her character is something akin to the cryptkeeper in Tales from the Crypt, except she only engages with the characters in each segment and not the audience. A little missed opportunity there, as a campy host that addresses the viewer directly has always been a mainstay of the anthology flick.
Nick Rendell pops up in a minor cameo, reprising his role as Mitchell Parker from A Day of Violence but this time Mitchell is a bouncer for the bordello, rather than a hunted criminal. He even threatens one unlucky punter with “a whole day of violence” in case his brief appearance isn’t obvious enough. It’s good to see that the UK independent scene is strong enough to reference itself in this way.
Kicking off the triple tale is Jim Eaves’ The Ripper, a story of bloody retribution on a serial killer that preys on prostitutes. Graham is a loner and a strange character, and he hides a dark secret in his suburban house – he murders women in the most gruesome ways. After burying his latest victim in a nearby forest he happens across Madame Raven’s, and he sees it as the perfect opportunity to pick up his next prey. But the girl he takes home gives him far more than he’d bargained for.
It’s a pretty straightforward segment, as far as the rest of the movie goes, a simple and outlandishly gory and sleazy serial killer piece with a twist in the tail (as every good anthology chapter should be). Jim Eaves doesn’t hold back and delivers an extremely gory short story as well as a great laugh out loud sight gag where his young victim-to-be discovers a cupboard containing his ‘tools of the trade’.
The filling in the BDT sandwich comes in the form of Alan Ronald’s affectionate Bride of Frankenstein homage, Stitchgirl. When Dr Whale checks in with Madame Raven he has a pretty exacting specification of the type of girl he wants. Not one to disappoint, the Madame puts together a young lady by using various pieces of girls she holds captive in her cellar and Stitchgirl (Eleanor James) is born.
There’s always a fine line between homage and rip-off but Ronald has managed to stay on the right side of it. Dr Whale (named after Bride director James Whale) is the archetypal English gent, played by Julian Lamoral-Roberts, who talks like he’s in a 1930’s Universal monster film and uses some subtly placed dialogue straight out of the film being referenced. It’s beautifully shot in black and white, with Eleanor James giving an excellent performance as the object of Dr Whale’s affections. Especially so as the sum of her dialogue consists only of small squeaks that somehow manage to convey the nervousness behind her wide, staring eyes.
Stitchgirl ends as tragically as its ‘30s peer after Dr Whale falls in love with the eponymous creation and makes arrangements with the Madame to take Stitchgirl away. Great segment with subtle references to the classics and a musical number in the middle to boot.
Finally we come to Pat Higgins’ Vice Day. Politician, Daniel Cain (Cy Henty), keeps an impeccable public profile but one day each year he allows himself 24 hours of indulgence and decadence – his vice day. This story finds him using the services of webcam girl, Destiny (Danielle Laws), from his palatial home. The pair get connected in more ways than via the internet, as Cain’s dark side comes out in a way that is completely unexpected.
Although shot as a planned section of BDT, Vice Day is a little disconnected in that neither of the two characters has any direct interaction with the cast of the bordello. That aside, it is an excellent piece that is testament to how accomplished Higgins has become as a director. Two people, two rooms and two computer screens are all he has to work with, yet the entire story is gripping and tense to the very last second. I’ve likened Higgins’ ability to write great dialogue to Tarantino, and Vice Day only convinces me more that I’m right. Someone seriously needs to give this guy a big pile of cash and let him loose to create a high-profile hit. If I had the money I’d do it myself.
BDT is without distribution as I write, but this situation shouldn’t last long. It’s a great anthology tale with remarkably different approaches to each story, all showcasing the talent of home-grown directors. Rule Britannia.
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