Review: ‘Frisk’

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.

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.

Frisk

Production

Industrial Eye. Director Todd Verow; Producer Marcus Hu, John Gerrans; Screenplay Jim Dwyer, La Voo, Todd Verow; Camera Greg Watkins; Editor Todd Verow; Art Director Jennifer Graber

Crew

(Color) Available on VHS. Extract of a review from 1995. Running time: 83 MIN.

With

Michael Gunther Craig Chester Parker Posey Alexis Arquette Raoul O'Connell Jaie Laplante
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