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Review: Heartbeat (2020)

Gregory Hatanaka is the man behind the distribution and production company Cinema Epoch. He’s also the director of films such as Samurai Cop 2: Deadly Vengeance, Choke and most recently Heartbeat. Low budget and indie cinema certainly must be close to his heart. But should his new film be close to ours?

Tina (Sarah Brine, Acrylic) no sooner gets off the phone with her mother than she gets a creepy phone call from someone unknown. Moments later, she’s slashed to death with a straight razor wielded by a leather-gloved killer. The next day, Detective Santoro (Chris Spinelli, Body of Night) turns up at Jennifer Sutton’s (Nicole D’Angelo, American Nudist) door. Jennifer is a reporter. It seems Tina, and another woman killed in the same fashion, worked for a company she wrote a scathing article about.

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Jennifer of course brushes off any connection between her article and the deaths. Or any chance of danger to herself. But as the killer claims more victims, she may want to reconsider.

One of my criticisms of Choke was that despite being tagged a horror film, it was more of a dark drama or thriller. Heartbeat is the opposite. It’s listed on IMDB as a thriller but falls fairly solidly into giallo territory. Obviously, the killer is right out of one. Then there’s the series of killings with the odd connection. And a cast packed with potential killers and red herrings.

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That includes not one but two men stalking our heroine. One is her obsessed ex, Torsten (Scott Butler, Attack of the Unknown, Los Angeles Shark Attack). The other is Rick (Shane Ryan, Axegrinder 2, Jurassic City) who takes photos of her as she undresses in front of an open window. And who also seems to be investigating the killings. Or does Gretchen (Lisa London, Xtro 3: Watch the Skies) have an ulterior motive for giving Jennifer information?

Unfortunately, a lot of characters either turn up just in time to get killed, so we don’t really care about them. Or who turn up for no apparent reason and just make it harder to keep track of what’s going on. I know having plenty of suspects is essential to a film like this. But trimming the list and working the rest into the plot better would have been more effective.

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Despite that, I enjoyed Heartbeat. It’s nicely paced, with some nicely quirky moments and characters. And I didn’t guess the killer, although I probably should have. Besides, you have to give credit to a film that can work a protective house cat and clips from Master of the Flying Guillotine into the plot.

Heartbeat is currently available to stream on Vimeo, with other platforms planned for later. Check the film’s website for details.

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