Wednesday, November 24, 2010

DVD REVIEW: Stiff (2010)

STIFF (2010)
STUDIO: Cinema Epoch
YEAR: 2010
RATED: Unrated
GENRE: Drama
DIRECTOR: Mike McKown and Jim Towns
CAST: Bill Scott (Troy), Lulu Benton (Lori), Melissa Troughtzmantz (Ms. Chapman)
TAGLINE: "I Want You to Help Me Die...."
PLOT: Troy (Bill Scott), a suicidal office employee, forms a bond with Lorri (Lulu Benton), a crisis counselor with a secret necrophiliac obsession. The two make a secret pact: Lorri will help Troy kill himself, if she can have her way with him afterward. But, as they prepare to go through with the deed, Troy's feelings for Lorri begin to grow, putting a strain on their seemingly ideal arrangement, as Troy wonders if he really does want to give his life (and Lorri) up. (from

FILM: Well here's a quaint indie drama that's not your typical boy meets girl love story. In this instance a suicidal office worker named Troy (Bill Scott) frequents the suicide hotline so often that not only do they know him by name but he's got his favorite operator at the crisis center, Lori (Lulu Benton). Lori is your average mid-20's necrophiliac ...oh yeah, that's right ...she's a real corpse grinder, truly. What better place to meet a stiff than at the suicide crisis hot line, right? The two strike up an unlikely friendship over the phone to the point that Lori gives the depressed loner her home phone number. Not a day later Troy's ringing Lori looking for a sympathetic ear while he half-heatedly contemplates jumping off a bridge. That's his deal, he has no follow-through to fully commit to suicide. Lori reaches out to him and arranges to meet him at his home. Troy's home is a pathetic sight with a shoddily constructed noose hanging from his sparsely furnished kitchen. So, what's Lori's deal, why is she so altruistic? She's into screwing corpses and is there to convince Troy to let her help him kill himself so that she can gratify her morbid desires after his death. Sounds like a sweet deal for both of 'em, right? Well, after spending a few days together Troy starts to feel the pangs of love for the 1st time and begins to question his resolve, and this is where the film excels, when it's exploring the tricky emotional interplay between Lori and Troy.  

The film is carried by the two main performances and they are definitely up to the task. While not Oscar-caliber they are both strong and tap into the dark emotional struggles that have brought them to this point in their lives. Both are socially and emotionally awkward individuals, most obviously Troy whose life of solitude has driven him to a state of suicidal despair. Lori is more socially adept but is deeply emotionally twisted stemming from witnessing her 1st love's death under the wheels of a school bus which has lead her down the path of death fetish and necrophilia. The film could have easily slipped into darker waters with themes of suicide and necrophilia but somehow manages to maintain it's edge as drama without devolving in DEADGIRL (2008) or NEKROMANTIK (1987) type body-horror territory but it straddles the line. Reportedly this film was shot in 7 days on a $1,000 micro-budget, that is true independent spirit. If I were complelled to nit pick I might say that the camera shots were pretty static and shot on the cheap, well no shit, right?  

DVD: STIFF comes to DVD courtesy of Cinema Epoch. The film is presented in anamorphic 1.78:1 widescreen with stereo audio. It's a good looking transfer with good image qaulity and crisp detail. The film is dialogue driven and the stereo audio is more than adequate. A good variety of supplemental materials including an informative behind-the-scenes featurette and an audio commentary with Directors Mike McKown and Jim Towns, first assistant camera/sound Christopher Nickelson and actors Lulu Benton and Bill Scott.

Special Features:
- Audio Commentary (80:00)
- Trailer (2:58)
- Alternate Ending (2:56)
- Featurette (40:33)
- Still Gallery

VERDICT: A decent entry into the pantheon of quirky indie-dramas. An off-kilter chronicling of the fateful meeting of two lonely souls working together towards a mutual morbid end. **1/2 (2.5 out of 5 stars)