23rd Aug2019

Frightfest 2019: ‘Sadistic Intentions’ Review

by Phil Wheat

Stars: Jeremy Gardner, Michael Patrick Nicholson, Taylor Zaudtke, Larry Fessenden | Written and Directed by Eric Pennycoff


A psychotic musician lures a fellow band-mate, Stu (Gardner) and an unsuspecting woman to a remote mansion for a night of romantic deceit and grinding metal mayhem. However, tensions arise between them as one of the musicians falls in love with Taylor (Zaudtke) the soon-to-be victim. Tangled in a web of violence and deceit, the shell-shocked Taylor is forced to fight for her life in order to escape the confines of a deadly band practice…

Between the opening, which sees the audience present at the end of a brutal family massacre by musician and weed dealer Kevin (Nicholson) and the title Sadistic Intentions, Eric Pennycoff’s film REALLY lays its cards on the table early And with good reason. To create tension. Long drawn out tension. The kind of tension that has audience’s questioning not if… but when? It’s edge of the seat stuff done surprisingly effectively and surprisingly easily. We’ve seen Kevin’s handy work, we know Kevin probably has plans for his band-mate and the girl who buys weed off him. We know those plans are nefarious and we know there’s nothing we can do about it but watch as this scenario unfolds.

It’s sheer brilliance on the part of writer/director Eric Pennycoff. It truly is.

It’s also an astute idea for the film to really get under the skin of Stu and Taylor before unleashing an insane Kevin on the pair and on the audience. Pennycoff really focuses the first half of the film on the duo as we see the two bond and form something of a burgeoning relationship – so we get an insight into them as people before we see them as [possible] future victims. It helps that both Gardner and Zaudtke give fantastic performances. The latter in particular is charismatic and captivating even from her very first scene; which also means the audience has a great sense of pathos for Taylor come her capture, you’ve spent so much time with her you’re honestly invested in her future.

As for Kevin, well Michael Patrick Nicholson plays the role completely unhinged. There’s a real mania to his performance, the actor feels as dangerous as his character. And this character is REALLY dangerous. Yet whilst his role as madman is spot on, Nicholson isn’t given a real chance to shine as much as Gardner and Zaudtke – though the dynamic between Kevin and Stu is a joy to watch, it’s almost master and servant-like rather than two friends.

That relationship also gives us more of a look at Stu’s character, he’s conflicted by Kevin’s behaviour yet subservient to him – which puts into question everything we’ve seen between Stu and Taylor. Was he working for Kevin? Did he know Kevin’s sadistic game plan? Did he have a change of heart after meeting Taylor? It leaves plenty of questions for the latter half of the film to answer… And Jeremy Gardner gives absolutely NOTHING away in his performance. The audience can’t trust him as much as Taylor can’t.

Oh, and speaking of actors, did I mention this is the most BLATANT use of Larry Fessenden’s name in a horror movie ever? He’s technically in this film but he doesn’t necessarily act. We’ll leave it at that.

There’s some truly exceptional aspects to Sadistic Intentions that really make this film stand out: from the obtuse camera angles to the giallo-esque lighting, from the nuanced, multi-layered, performances to the over-the-top denouement (which, I thought, echoed that of William Lustig’s Maniac somewhat). All of which makes Sadistic Intentions a stunning feature debut for Eric Pennycoff and one that, in a just world, will put his name on the proverbial horror map.

****½  4.5/5

Sadistic Intentions screened on Friday August 23rd as part of Arrow Video Frightfest 2019.


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