21st Jun2024

‘The Seductress From Hell’ Review

by Phil Wheat

Stars: Rocio Scotto, Jason Faunt, Raj Jawa, Kylie Rohrer, Andy Lauer, James Hyde | Written and Directed by Andrew de Burgh

Zara (Rocio Scotto; Chapel, Lady Parts) slips out of bed as her husband Robert (Jason Faunt; Beast of the Water, Resident Evil: Vendetta) sleeps. She goes downstairs, pulls a small box out of a trunk and looks through the book of sinister-looking drawings it contains. She’s about to go from aspiring actress and abused wife to the seductress from hell.

Post credits we see them at the breakfast table, she’s waiting for a callback for a part and he’s being an obnoxious prick. The thing is he’s not wrong in saying if they have money troubles she should get an actual job, she made less than $10K last year, it’s the belligerent, demeaning way he says it that’s the problem. That belligerence only gets worse as time goes on, leading to Robert forcing himself on her, and, after a dinner with their friends Derek (Raj Jawa; Shadows Fall, Free Guy) and Maya (Kylie Rohrer; I Joined A Cult, Echoes) that’s memorable for all the wrong reasons, beating her.

That brings us to the scene we saw in the prologue. When she pulls out a bottle of chloroform that just happens to be in there as well, we know Robert is about to get some serious payback. And he’s just the first of many to feel Zara’s wrath. Things spiral further out of control as she decides to kill off other sleazebags and sell their organs on the black market, apparently you can find out who to call and where to take them on the internet. She eventually falls under suspicion from Raj when he can’t get a hold of Roger, and as her list of victims grows and becomes less focused, from Officer Gerrard (Andy Lauer; August Underground, Swim) of the LAPD.

Writer/director Andrew de Burgh (Just One Drink, The Bestowal) has made a film that it’s not easy to get into. The Seductress From Hell features mostly unpleasant characters and dialogue that’s frequently stilted and doesn’t sound like things people would actually say.

That might, however, be intentional because The Seductress From Hell frequently feels off-kilter as if what we’re seeing is the product of an unhinged mind dreaming of revenge, or possibly, as with High Tension, the story as seen through the eyes of a very unreliable narrator. Things like the bottle of chloroform or their house having a soundproof room seem as believable as the idea of Zara selling her soul to get revenge.

Further blurring the lines between Zara’s reality and possible fantasy, we see her rehearsing for the part of Tamara Nolan in a film called Just One Drink. One of de Burgh’s early shorts is titled Just One Drink and does have a character by that name, although it was played not by Scotto but Barbara Nedeljakova from the first two Hostel films.

What follows is a bizarre trip into madness that at times recalls everything from Miike’s Audition to I Spit on Your Grave and Starry Eyes. There’s even a hint, in the long monologues Zara delivers before she kills, of Bret Easton Ellis’ novel American Psycho, which also leaves what is and isn’t really ambiguous.

Scotto makes a real impression as the psychotic Zara as she goes from timid and fearful to relentless and deadly. She also has to not just deliver the monologues I mentioned earlier, but not have them sound laughable. There’s also a nightmare scene that could easily have been unintentionally funny if Scotto, Jawa and Faunt weren’t all on point. The rest of the cast, including James Hyde (Guns, Drugs and Dirty Money, Love Under the Lemon Tree) as a sleazy producer, are all solid.

Despite being titled The Seductress From Hell, the film is fairly chaste, with no nudity and Robert’s rape of Zara happening off-screen, its impact coming from what he says immediately before, and her scream as he grabs her. There is some gore courtesy of Brittany Jamison-Lackey (The Angry Black Girl and Her Monster, The Witcher: Blood Origin) and her practical effects. The sound design by Steve Campagna (Stranger Things, D-Railed) and cinematography of Khoi Nguyen (The Secret Heiress, To Avenge My Ex, I Married a Stranger) help boost the impact of these scenes nicely.

Not a film that will be to everyone’s taste, The Seductress From Hell is an interesting twist on the genre that manages to leave the viewer feeling rather disturbed and uneasy despite occasionally stumbling over itself. There’s also a mid-credit scene you’ll probably want to catch as well.

**** 4/5

The Seductress From Hell will be heading out to the festival circuit before a planned release sometime next year.

Review originally posted on Voices From the Balcony

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