[Chattanooga Film Festival] Review: Heavy Metal and Horrid Murders Collide in SADISTIC INTENTIONS

As if heavy metal didn’t already have enough of a bad reputation, especially with those who aren’t avid listeners, along comes writer/director Eric Pennycoff’s Sadistic Intentions to further that music genre’s infamous image. This shocking tale of creativity turning into madness is a disturbing ride that packs a wallop in its second half.

The film opens showing that a man has just laid brutal waste to a family of four. After that, a dope dealer named Kevin (Michael Patrick Nicholson of We Are Still Here) calls stoner acquaintance Chloe (Taylor Zaudtke in an appealing feature film debut) to meet him and help him with a big marijuana score. When she arrives at the address Kevin gave her — which turns out to be the site of a mansion — she finds Kevin’s skittish Morbid Annihilator bandmate Stu (Jeremy Gardner, star and director of The Battery, and star of The Mind’s Eye) already there, waiting for Kevin to arrive for rehearsal.

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The first half of the film sets up character development of and between free-wheeling, pot-friendly Chloe and nervous, pot-hating Stu while the pair wait for Kevin to show up. He is obviously uneasy with this freer spirit, and she has fun ribbing him about his music and dislike of dancing. It’s a sort of millennial-era cross between Samuel Beckett’s absurdist play Waiting for Godot and the quirky 1983 romantic comedy Can She Bake a Cherry Pie?, though more accessible than either of those two vehicles.

At pretty much the halfway mark, the film takes a darker turn with the arrival of Kevin, the person responsible for slaughtering the family at the beginning of the film. It turns out that he wants his music and Stu’s sadistic, evil lyrics to have truth behind them, and he has the titular plans in store for his invited guests.

Gardner, Zaudtke, and Nicholson do a fine job in this three-hander, with each one nailing the nuances behind their characters and predicaments. Gardner and Zaudtke show a special chemistry that really brings their characters, with all of their different outlooks, to vivid life. Nicholson’s role is much more of the teeth-gnashing, psychotic villain variety, and he brings a decidedly sharp edge to this portrayal.

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Pennycoff balances the two halves of the film beautifully, showing that he is as adept at building drama and creating characters that viewers can care for as he is at sustaining suspense and delivering the horror goods. He brings the “getting to know you” elements between Chloe and Stu back late in the second half, but with quite a different vibe.

Fright fare fans who enjoy characters with charm and humanity, a story with true drama that is well written and acted, and a slow-burn approach to things will find plenty to enjoy in Sadistic Intentions. It screened at the Chattanooga Film Festival, which ran April 9-21.

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