I came to review Jeff Wedding’s Tennessee Gothic in a slightly odd way. I had a link to the trailer sent to me on Twitter. Even odder I actually logged onto Twitter and saw it. When I responded favourably, I was offered a screener. I guess Twitter isn’t totally worthless after all, because Tennessee Gothic is an unexpected treat.
Tennessee Gothic gets off to a fast start with a couple of big ugly rednecks pouring gasoline on a bound woman who we will later find out is named Sylvia (Jackie Kelly, In Memory Of). When one of them decides to add rape to the night’s activities it gives her the chance she needs to break loose and kill them both.
She passes out by the side of the road where she’s found by Paw (Victor Hollingsworth). He brings her back to the farm he shares with his son Caleb (William Ryan Watson, The Dooms Chapel Horror). Since she has no place else to go Paw offers her a place at the farm. She’s soon helping with the chores and joining Caleb in the hayloft. And seducing Paw just for good measure.
When the Reverend Simms (Wynn Reichert, The Alpha Test) and his wife (Christine Poythress) turn up for a visit suspicions are raised that Sylvia might not be who, or what she claims. The Reverend can be distracted, his wife not so much. However, when Ronnie (Jason Christ, Ratline, Deadwood Park) the brother of one of the would-be rapists turns up a sequence of events begins. One leading up to a deadly, and shocking conclusion.
The trailer for Tennessee Gothic makes it look like a cross between a 1970s hillbilly sex comedy and a vampire film. It isn’t either of those. There is humour, but not nearly as much as it would appear. The film plays reasonably seriously a lot of the time.
Tennessee Gothic is like a slightly over-the-top traditional Southern Gothic until the last act. Then it becomes very obvious Sylvia is much more than just a beautiful and wily woman playing a bunch of horny guys off against each other. The final revelation of her true nature caught me off guard, although it should have been obvious to me.
Jackie Kelly is excellent as Sylvia. Looking equal parts sweet and teasing in the beginning before becoming an absolute vixen. She has the looks for the part and is totally uninhibited in the several nude and/or sex scenes she has. In Memory Of showed that she could act. Tennessee Gothic shows a different side of her talents.
Wynn Reichert is effectively sleazy as the not so holy man of the cloth. He’s more than willing to use blackmail to get what he wants. And the fact he thinks she might be underage doesn’t stop him from getting a piece of Sylvia as well.
As an added bonus for film fans, Tennessee Gothic was actually shot on film. Cult director Eric Stanze (In Memory Of, Ratline) served as the film’s cinematographer. In a further coincidence, production on the film was delayed while director Wedding worked as the cinematographer on Chad Crawford Kinkle’s Dementer.
The script is based on the story American Gothic by Ray Russell who’s known for writing scripts for both Roger Corman and William Castle. One of those scripts, X The Man With The X-Ray Eyes became the basis of a song by Blue Oyster Cult. He also wrote short stories and novels, including Incubus which was filmed in 1981.
Add an alt-country soundtrack and Tennessee Gothic is a film that’s far from typical and worth seeing. Hopefully, it finds an audience when it’s released this month.
GypsyRoot Releasing will present the North American Premiere of Tennessee Gothic at the historic Belcourt Theatre in Nashville, TN on October 15th, 2019, followed by a VOD and Special Edition Blu-ray release that same day. More details can be found on the film’s website and Facebook page.