Available from June 29th on horror streaming service, Shudder comes Show Pieces, a short film anthology from the mind of renowned graphic novelist Alan Moore (Watchmen, V for Vendetta) and directed by Mitch Jenkins. Show Pieces contains a surrealist tone that echoes the filmic style of David Lynch but is it a watch worthy slither of genre cinema or shrouded in convolution? Let’s find out.
This creepy collective is dissected into five sequences while sharing an intertwining narrative thread. Part One, titled ‘Act of Faith’ is a downbeat but highly stylised depiction of a lonely female journalist, aptly named Faith (Siobhan Hewlett) who embroils herself in a twisted sex game that includes implications of suicide. This segment feels rather ostentatious in the tone it’s trying to get across.
At the forefront, there is this glamorisation of suicide in how the scene is constructed which is not poignant by any means. In fact, the character of Faith appears as so self-involved, it’s unclear whether the audience are meat to empathise with her predicament. She is shown glamming herself up then speaking to a ‘mystery caller’ in a sultry fashion, claiming she is so ‘lonely’ and ‘slutty’ therefore plans to take her own life.
Following this, the way this short plays out is highly ironic and the sound design used as Faith begins to suffocate, making squelching noises is horrific. However, the sound design is the only stand out point of the entire segment. There’s this whole representation at play of a romanticized version of suicide that just does not sit well. Act of Faith sets this over-indulgent tone for where Show Pieces eventually leads. It’s a collective of repellent characters bringing unpleasant fates upon themselves but from an audience standpoint it’s all rather pretentious and lacklustre.
The impending action takes place in a run down, sleaze-infused gentleman’s club which brings the viewers to ‘Jimmy’s End’. The club is a figurative view of ‘purgatory’, the crossroads between above and down below and a demented take on it at that. The whole seedy club setting and selection of unnerving characters is reminiscent of Lynch’s bizarre 1980’s cult hit, ‘Blue Velvet, with its darkly twisted underbelly. But that is where the similarities end. The film features corset clad ladies and an overpowering, menacing clown.
Darrell D’ Silva plays Jim Mitchum, a womanizing rogue set to get his comeuppance through psychologically warped means. The final part of the anthology, titled ‘His Heavy Heart’ branches out as a conclusion of Jimmy’s torment at the hands of Bobbles the Clown (Andrew Buckley) as well as delves further into Moore and Jenkins’s vision of the afterlife.
There’s not much creativity on offer as for a large portion of the short it features, clunky dialogue heavy spiels by Buckley’s character to an annoying degree while Mitchum is tied to a chair with the threat of inexplicable torture. Horror fans deserve far more credit, as the aforementioned image is a tried and tested component of the genre and quite frankly, a one-dimensional character tied to a chair and tormented is superfluous.
It seems strange coming across so negatively about a piece written by a literacy figure who is so highly regarded but all in all, Show Pieces is a repulsive film. It’s repulsive in the sense that it tries too hard to seem skin-crawling and unsettling but the end is result is a monotonous watch that leaves the viewer feeling cold and uninspired. Some of the acting is over exaggerated and unconvincing, combining this with the characterisation it comes off as rather hollow with a messy execution.
Show Pieces does incorporate some interesting ideas such as its dystopian view of reality and the claustrophobia of the night club itself. It is visually stylish with its deep red and blue lighting and nightmarish look. However, the aesthetic used is so prevalent in so much contemporary horror that it doesn’t hold any real weight when the narrative is so mundane. An interesting looking film that lacks any real substance just isn’t going to cut it.
Check out Show Pieces when it hits Shudder at the end of June and see for yourselves…