Director Todd Verow’s debut feature, Frisk, is an uneven but generally successful attempt to translate the work of novelist Dennis Cooper to the screen. Like the earlier Swoon – which also dealt with loaded violent and sexual behavior in a morally ambivalent tone – pic invites general controversy.
Adapting Cooper’s 1991 novel, the screenplay adopts a more chronological format while maintaining his complex, somewhat unresolved balance between multiple storytellers. They might be relating actual events or mere fantasies; some aren’t sure themselves.
Protagonist Dennis (Michael Gunther) is attracted as an LA teen to envelope-pushing sexual images; he later meets a masochist, Henry (Craig Chester), he’d once seen ‘dead’ in apparent snuff photos. A move to San Francisco does little to alter his brutal course. Dennis becomes obsessed with a gay porn actor (Michael Stock), then succumbs to his homicidal urges – first acting alone on a hustler, then ‘joining forces’ with a like-minded couple (James Lyons, Parker Posey).
Pic’s obsessive, sealed atmosphere lends Verow’s slaying set pieces a real banality-of-evil queasiness. Perfs are variable. The director succeeds less in straight dialogue scenes, which run a tad flat, than in using experimental montages to create a decadent ‘underground’ milieu. Lensing in 16mm deploys some hot-color lighting to good effect.