“GODDESS OF LOVE” (Film Review)Movies/TV,News,Reviews Ken W. Hanley
When a horror film- or any film for that matter- is subject to the independent production process, the sheer lack of budget and time to bring the story to reality is a true test to the mettle of a filmmaker. For some, the temptation to cut as many corners as possible and stretch out any given moment in an amateur attempt to get to feature length is an irresistible one. However, tried-and-true filmmakers rely on resources, passion and healthy collaboration to bring their story to life as authentically as possible. Jon Knautz certainly falls in the latter category, and in that regards, GODDESS OF LOVE uses its low-budget means to its advantage by crafting an utterly claustrophobic and bold film that is gripping from start to finish.
While GODDESS OF LOVE certainly isn’t the first independent film to tackle the subject of mental instability in a young woman, the film’s use of said instability turns the film from generic psychodrama to an intense nightmare. Even the apparent simplicity of the plot plays a role in the chaos that ensues, offering a clever twist on the unreliable narrator that never feels forced or contrived. But above all else, GODDESS OF LOVE succeeds thanks to Knautz’s co-writer and lead actress, Alexis Kendra, whose incredibly committed dive into this role sells every bit of nastiness, violence and mania on display.
For those unfamiliar, GODDESS OF LOVE follows Venus (Kendra), an unlucky-in-love stripper who unsuspectingly finds a boyfriend in a surprisingly vulnerable customer reeling from the loss of his wife. However, after some time together, Venus begins suspecting that the man has found another, and upon finding him going to dinner secretly with another woman, she begins to lose her mind. Soon, Venus finds herself subject to hallucinations, hostility and even homicidal tendencies.
Even though the film is clearly a low budget affair, GODDESS OF LOVE never feels strained or compromised in any way, instead using more creative and colorful choices in almost every aspect. Knautz lenses the film with an incredible visual style, and when paired with Matthew Brulotte’s on-point editing, creates a truly palpable anxiety throughout the film. Ryan Shore’s score also aids the film in creating a unique, classier sense of agency throughout the film, pulsating along to the degradation of our character’s fragile mental state. But perhaps Knautz is most impressive is in his confident direction; best known for the over-the-top mayhem of JACK BROOKS: MONSTER SLAYER, Knautz’s work here is intimate, erotic and absolutely terrifying.
In terms of performances, the film is mainly fueled by Kendra’s work as Venus, who jumps from seductive to vulnerable to dangerous at a moment’s notice… and never once does it feel unbelievable; if there’s ever a performance-to-watch for 2015, Kendra’s Venus is a top contender. However, that shouldn’t discredit the rest of the excellent and capable cast, especially Woody Naismith as Venus’ tragic and tormented boyfriend, Brian. And the supporting cast, most of whom are relegated to precious few scenes, also deliver solid turns as well, including Elizabeth Sandy, Monda Scott and Richard Velton.
GODDESS OF LOVE is a rare blend of scary and smart that will joyously play dark tricks on its viewers by presenting a certain, familiar brand of “crazy” before ripping the rug out from under them. It’s a risky gamble, but one that pays off, especially when given the gorgeous cinematography and unnerving portrayal of self-destruction from Alexis Kendra, who also proves herself a great writer and producer by the same hand. And at the very least, GODDESS OF LOVE proves director Jon Knautz is much more than the monster movie guy, and when given precious little, he can deliver a film that will still tear you apart.