Scott Schirmer has made a name for himself with films like Found and Harvest Lake. Films that mix brutality, gore, and sexuality in ways and amounts that tend to push the limits. In his latest film, The Bad Man, however, he goes in a different direction. The emphasis is on psychological torment, mind games and manipulation. As with Sean Donohue and The Hart-Break Killer, we have an extreme filmmaker making a film that doesn’t rely on shocking visuals. How well does he fare?
PJ (Jason Crowe, Hooker with a Hacksaw, The Krokodil Chronicles) and Mary (Ellie Church, Plank Face, Frankenstein Created Bikers) arrive at the estate belonging to her recently deceased grandmother. It had been a bed and breakfast but has been shut down. Traveling clown Laurence (Arthur Cullipher, The Legend Of Wasco) turns up on their doorstep claiming he booked a room before the old lady’s death. They agree to let him stay the night.
That’s not a good move. He has plans for the two of them. Plans that involve mentally breaking them and selling them as sex slaves. PJ as a dog and Mary as a human doll. Can they win the battle of wills with him and his gas-masked henchman (Dave Parker, Hunters, Headless)?
Given the potential for graphically disturbing material and a cast that’s willing to go there, it’s doubly surprising that Schirmer chose to keep so much off-screen. that’s not to say we don’t see some disturbing things. The characters in their various costumes and makeup are unsettling. And some of the scenes of their training got under my skin.
But overall The Bad Man seems to be missing something. Keeping much the violence off-screen, even in the final act takes away some of the impact, one death in particular really needed to be shown and wasn’t. Also, the interview/flashback style of the film hurt it for me. It spoils a lot of a film’s suspense right from the start.
But then again, shock and suspense may not have been the aim here. At the end of The Bad Man what I felt was a sense of sadness. You’ll understand if you watch it.