Sex, drugs and rock and roll are the Holy Trinity of decadence, and Christopher Bickel’s debut feature THE THETA GIRL starts off with a hefty dose of all three. And then the violence kicks in, serious, nasty, brutal violence. In case there was any doubt, the viewer now knows this film is not business as usual.
Gayce (Victoria Elizabeth Donofrio) hangs out with the all-female punk band The Truth Foundation and sells a drug called Theta. Apart from the high, it gives users Theta also expands their consciousness and lets them see another dimension and its birdlike occupant who may or may not be a deity. But when she arouses the wrath of a group of Christian Fundamentalists led by Brother Marcus (Shane Silman) and the bodies of her friends start piling up she’s forced to confront the truth about herself. And about Theta.
Shot for only $14,000 THE THETA GIRL is one of the most audacious debut films I’ve seen in a long time. Bickel and writer David Axe (SHED, AZRAEL, Lection) deliver a film full of raw energy, weirdness and a disregard for convention and decency. Starting out like a psychedelic exploitation film with drug trips, music and an orgy sequence that’s about as explicit as I’ve seen in a recent non-sex film. I should also add it gives equal time to both male and female full-frontal shots, non “Hollywood beautiful” bodies and assorted numbers and genders of partners.
But the poster promises kills and they are delivered. It’s not long before Gayce finds a friend dead, his intestines pulled out and shaped into the theta symbol. And it gets worse from there. Crowbars, knives, guns, broken bottles, even a ceramic toilet lid all come into play. The practical effects used to realize THE THETA GIRL’s violence range from disgustingly real to occasionally cheesy but it’s still better than CGI splatter. It’s also filmed with a nasty, mean edge. This isn’t sanitized mainstream violence, the brutality looks and feels ugly, which is how it should feel.
For a first film made on such a low budget, THE THETA GIRL has surprisingly few rough edges. It’s well shot and manages some stand out scenes such as the opening stroll down a street on the wrong side of town and a nighttime chase through the woods. The choice of songs on the soundtrack is also a big help. The cast of mostly unknowns is surprisingly good and Donofrio may turn out to be a new indie film fixture.
If Abel Ferrara had remade Larry Cohen’s GOD TOLD ME TO with some script rewrites by David Cronenberg the results might resemble THE THETA GIRL. Or maybe not. See it and form your own opinion.
THE THETA GIRL is playing the Boston Underground Film Festival as part of a festival run and will hopefully be announcing distribution plans soon.