All three of the stories in Sean Hogan, Andrew Parkinson, and Simon Rumley’s Little Deaths — a gruesome play on la petite mort — center on the cruelty born from power exchange “relationships” (consensual and otherwise).
Hogan’s House and Home sets the tone for the anthology with a talented cast of players (Luke de Lacey, Siubhan Harrison, Holly Lucas), but departs with a tidy resolution that feels like a safeguard excusing the dehumanizing acts we’ve just witnessed, lacking follow-through. Parkinson’s Mutant Tool goes to some interesting places in its disturbing conceptual starkness, but things get a bit uneven. Kudos for Parkinson’s use of practical effects, but a split-second shot of the massive, rubber cock swinging wildly and looking extremely fake had me cringing in all the wrong ways.
Rumley’s Bitch is the most successful of the trio, and manages to usurp the others while being far less explicit and ultimately more disturbing. The filmmaker proved he has a knack for guiding his actors into some extremely dark places in Red White & Blue, and his ability to ground the terror they engage in a naturalistic way is refreshing. Bitch is no different. Kate Braithwaite’s Claire and Tom Sawyer’s Pete — who play a dysfunctional couple that engage in a broken dominant/submissive power struggle beset with abusive mindfuckery — feel like real, damaged individuals. Rumley’s examination of their impaired relationship seethes with heartbreaking desperation, frustration, and alienation. The dog eat dog conclusion undermines the unexpected, challenging way Rumley crafts a snapshot of uncontained desire, unrestrained hunger, and uncontrolled impulse. It ends all too goofy for my liking, but Bitch is an admirable short that once again left me wanting more from the director.