In this pretentious essay in the grotesque, British newcomer Philip Ridley shows technical ability and a macabre sense of humor, but the script’s abnormal situations and morbid characters pall quickly and leave little more than a bad aftertaste.
Set in grassroots America of the 1950s (film was shot in Canada), story describes how a young boy persecutes and catalyzes the death of a young widow whom he thinks is a vampire with bloodthirsty aims on his elder brother.
Nobody in the story is normal. The boy has a penchant for sadistic practical jokes, mom is hysterically obsessed with odors and dad, a service station operator with a history of pederasty, commits suicide (by gasoline immolation) when accused of sodomy and murder of his son’s friend.
The lovers (widow and brother) are bent too. Latter is clearly disturbed by his recent military service in the Pacific, while the widow, a British woman whose rube husband hung himself, is a necrophile fetishist.
Ridley tops things off with some twisted religious symbolism, such as the fossilized fetus the boy finds in a barn and befriends. Tech credits, notably Dick Pope’s striking color images, are fine.