16th Nov2020

‘Sweet Taste of Souls’ VOD Review

by Phil Wheat

Stars: Honey Lauren, John Salandria, Mark Valeriano, Amber Gaston, Sarah J. Bartholomew, Thom Michael Mulligan, Frank Papia, Jesse LeNoir, Darn Oldham, Scott Alin, Lonny Curtis, Samantha Larson, Tess Dunlap, Jesse Turner | Written by F. Scott Mudgett | Directed by Terry Ross

You know that old superstition, oftentimes used as a trope in genre films, that taking someone’s photo would steal their souls? Well Sweet Taste of Souls takes this idea and builds upon in a surrealistic nightmare that doesn’t always make sense but whose central performance from Honey Lauren (Vice Academy 4, 5 & 6) is enough to creep anyone out!

The film tells the story of four band members who, on a road trip to a gig, stop at an off-the-beaten path roadside cafe for a slice of pie. Run by Ellinore, whose demeanour is less than friendly, even for your usual “don’t like strangers” archetype of yokel-locals, the cafe is much more than JUST a cafe… it’s charnel house of bizarre art, where customers don’t just find their souls taken by photographs – their entire bodies are!

What a concept. Seriously. A deranged woman who traps people inside photographs and hangs them on the walls of her cafe? Much, much creepier than merely stealing someone’s soul in a photo; it’s Bride of Frankenstein‘s tiny humans in bell jars taken to a more terrifying extreme. Especially given that the woman responsible, Ellinore, seems to have major issues with her own mental health!

I’m not going to lie, it took me some time to get into Sweet Taste of Souls, mainly because the intro is bad. A terrible title track, that sounds off-key, and a bizarre first scene in which Ellinore smashes a shape-shifting cherry pie… Weird, just weird. And poorly put together. However once the story kicks in proper, as the band arrive at Ellinore’s cafe, the film picks up and becomes a lot more intriguing. Even moreso when we learn Ellinore’s backstory. Which adds an extra layer to proceedings – one that, surprisingly, makes Ellinore a more sympathetic villain.

Though to be fair, that sympathy is helped by the fact our protagonists, the four band members, are – for the most part – some of the most annoying characters I’ve seen in a horror film in a while. Unlike some films, which make their characters totally unlikeable, so much so you want them to die; here the four are just infuriating. The two guys are assholes, while the girls are so badly written they’re not even full-fleshed out characters. We know nothing about Wendy and that the other, Lily, is the most stereotypical “fragile final girl” I’ve seen since the slasher-movie heyday!

On the plus side, the fragile state of Ellinore’s mind, along with the aforementioned back story, does wonders for Sweet Taste of Souls. Having our killer have a fractured mind, hearing voices (including from a stuffed parrot), and snapping at the smallest thing, really ramps up the suspense. It’s less about what Ellinore is going to do but when. It’s a great way to keep the audience on tenterhooks. And when Ellinore does snap, and she takes her “frustration” out on those she’s trapped in her art collection in some truly creative ways.

However for most of the film there’s no real logic to just how Ellinore got her “power”, beyond the voices in her head; which is where this films surreal nature comes from. Yet the reveal of who, or what, gave Ellinore her power and who is speaking to her in head, goes one step further than the backstory-revealing flashback ever did. Taking this film into more demonic territory and turning Ellinore from total psycho to another victim, twisted by whomever is possessing the building (something which is never explained). It’s a plot device that ultimately, and cleverly, ties together the story of Lily and Ellinore – two victims of abuse who are taking back their lives… in deadly ways!

Enjoyable, but not without its issues (mainly the casting and the god-awful soundtrack) Sweet Taste of Souls is available on VOD and streaming services, like Amazon, now.

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