FILMS FROM A BROKEN MIND *** UK 2016 Dir: Bazz Hancher. 87 mins
A wisecracking, guffawing Satan (Matt Lee) welcomes newcomers to Hell in the framing story of this engaging anthology film from Kidderminster-based indie director Bazz Hancher. The opener, “Leon’s Broken Mind” has an astonishingly repulsive performance by Richard Rowbotham as a lonely, thumbsucking mummy’s boy driven by childhood abuse (and with a little inspiration from a snuff movie in Kidderminster’s last DVD rental shop) to a murder spree.
It captures the grubby visual aesthetic of a nasty shot-on-video 80’s gore flick and Rowbotham’s fearless, oddly compelling schizo recalls the anti-hero of THE HUMAN CENTIPEDE II. Hancher doesn’t flinch from animal mutilation, dead children, cum-eating and a notably grim rape sequence. “Bonjour Monsieur Trepas” offers comparatively light relief in its tale of another peculiar, obese young man (Kevin Varty) – though this one is well liked in polite society, unaware of his secret existence as a cannibalistic, cat-eating serial killer inspired by history’s greatest madmen. This episode has a marvellously banal British backdrop of sunny country lanes, morning strolls, football small talk, missing pets and cinema’s greatest ever use of a key from a tin of Princes’ corned beef. Plus, it has the line “Does this rag smell of chloroform to you?” The weakest and longest segment is a misfired shift into gangster territory named “Darkest Secrets” with a dialogue heavy script highlighting the limitations of the amateur actors and at least one desperate attempt to shock. Fortunately, the film ends on a high with “The Rogue Filmmaker”, a sardonic faux-documentary in which Hancher mocks his own output via a story portraying him as an unhinged filmmaker responsible for real brutality in the name of art. It amusingly punctures the intermittent Daily Mail-style horror movie witch hunts and has diverting interviews with relatives and cast members (“I don’t actually get bum raped in it but…”), along with Richard Rowbotham playing himself in a fashion that’s almost as disturbing as his role in “Leon’s Broken Mind”.
Review by Steven West