Monday, August 15, 2011

DVD Review: MY PURE JOY (2011)

MY PURE JOY (2011)
VIDEO: 16x9 Widescreen
AUDIO: English Dolby Digital Stereo 2.0
DIRECTOR: James Cullen Bressack
CAST: Alexie Ryan, Cory Jacob, Lisa Frantz,
JD Fairman, Christopher Chandler

MY PURE JOY opens with a dysfunctional family dinner scenario as mother, father, adolescent son and a young man sit down for an delicious angst ridden dinner. The young man causes quite a ruckus at supper and dismisses himself from the table after an outburst that nearly ends in a physical confrontation with his father. A short time later the adolescent son lies in bed as a killer wearing a hoodie and an eerie porcelain mask enters the room and  dispatches the youngling in a most bloody manner, as a father I found the death of the child deeply disturbing, gets me every time. The masked killer stuffs the boy's blood-soaked body into a sack and moves onto the next room to continue the slaughter. At this point I'm thinking these are the actions of the angry young man from the dinner scene, he's obviously gone nutso, but in the next room we find that the angry teen is angrily beating-off to internet porn on his laptop, wow, angry and pathetic, this makes sense. He's dispatched in quick order, followed by the father who comes to check on the teen, perhaps to reconcile, who knows? Entering the room he's overcome by the grisly discovery of the teen and his young son's corpse stuffed in a sack. Our masked killer strikes from behind strangling him with rope, there's a brief scuffle on the floor, his legs spasm as his dying breath is exhaled. Up next is the mother, a woman whom I though bore a similarity to 70's genre familiar Karen Black. She's dispatched in a shower scene that fades to black and white, a sweet homage to Alfred Hitchcock's PSYCHO, it's here that we get our first taste of the coveted slasher cinema nudity. Our killer, having extinguished an entire family, sets off for home where he plops down in bed and scribbles into a journal his thoughts on the killings.

That's the introduction to MY PURE JOY, the first feature length film from 19 year old director James Cullen Bressack. The film stars Alexei Ryan as our psychotic masked killer Adam, a young man living in the suburbs with his widowed mother. On the outside he looks the part of your typical slackerish suburban stoner but on the inside he's a seething tangle of repressed anger and dark murderous impulses. Through flashback we see Adam watching horror films with his bed-ridden father in the months leading up to his death, his dad's a real fright flick enthusiast and he instills a love of the genre into the boy who doesn't take to it right away. It's after his father's death that this exposure to violent cinema seems to awaken latent murderous tendencies within him as he sets about venting his anger by replicating kills from his favorite horror shows on unsuspecting victims. His mother does her best to raise the young man right but Adam doesn't make it easy for her, he's a total douche to the kind but frustrated woman. When he floods the bathroom he threatens to slash her throat after she suggest he clean it up, so yeah he has some serious anger issues. This tense and uneasy situation is made even worse when his estranged older brothers shows up and confronts Adam straight-on about his violent tendencies 

His two best (and only) friends are Chris and Steve, suburban stoners with whom he talks about horror films A LOT. These cats are the only people Adam seems to be able to carry-on a normal conversation with, and even then it's nearly entirely about smokin' weed and foreign horror films like Takashi Miike's ICHI THE KILLER and AUDITION as well as MARTYRS and INSIDE, can't bash their tastes, that's good stuff. Adam's also obsessed with his ex-girlfriend Cindy which leads to a confrontation with her douche-nozzle white-rapper gorilla of a new boyfriend at a party, but it's never a good idea to anger someone as psychotic as Adam, now is it?

The films starts off strong with the massacre of an entire family, it's potent stuff with some good gore effects. There's some decent dialogue, a tense pulsing filmscore, plus the coveted slasher cinema nudity, and the violence is fairly shocking and includes a rather painful stab to the groin which actually made me flinch. A particular strength of the films is Alexie Ryan's portrayal of Adam, you could feel his repressed anger, bursting at the seams with hostility and it really carried the film for me, his expressive face going from disconnected psychosis to over-the-top insanity at the drop of a pin good stuff.

For a first-time feature film from a director on a very limited budget I have to give it up to Bressack, this is a good watch. While the film looks good for a low-budget production there's some technical aspects that could've been handled better; editing and sound recording in particular come to mind and the effects aren't consistently good throughout, there's a few iffy moments that draw attention to themselves but not ruinous, just not great. Something else I didn't care for was the scapegoating of violent cinema as a cause for his murderous rage but as the film roles on there are revelations that might also explain his actions, so again, didn't care for it but I didn't hate it.    

VERDICT: A decent slasher with some interesting psychological horror elements, a definite recommend for those inclined to enjoy low-budget indie slashers and don't mind a few rough edges. I'll look forward to Bressack's next film, there's certainly bigger and better things on the way from this promising young director.