Text © Richard Gary / Indie Horror Films, 2017
Images from the Internet
Shelter for the Bloodstained Soul
Written, directed and edited by Nicholas Wagner
77 minutes, 2016
A while back, I saw Nicholas Wagner’s 50-minute film called The Holy Sound (2013; reviewed HERE), which dealt with an object in a cave that had an effect on both libido and aggression, which its characters found to be a quasi-religious experience.
Many of those same themes are present in this release. After a very brief prologue that makes more sense as the film unspools, somewhere in the Deep South we meet redheaded singer and junkie Harvey (Maggie Williams) picking up the stranded and creepy Addison (Malcolm Mills), whose car bit the dust. Add into the mix Harvey’s pal, dealer, and habitual spitter Tex (Reed DeLisle), and we are on our way.
Addison talks a lot of religion goo, but it soon becomes clear that it’s not Jeebus at the center of it (this will drive the Trump-lovin’ Southerners bonkers, I’m sure). Addison smokes this pipe and suddenly the area fills with smoke (or mist, I suppose) and a mysterious and lovely woman appears, who is apparently an angel without a body. And what does she need (this is all in the film’s description, so no spoiler alert)? The burned bodies of people who are involved with sex, but without love (i.e., pure lust, one of the seven deadlies) is what is used as either food or sacrifice, I'm not sure, but either works for me.
Needless to say, Addison is just the start of the cult as he gets both Harvey and Tex smokin’ (which apparently deadens the effects of other drugs), and they become bloodthirsty killers to help raise Cain… I mean the goddess/angel. Into the mix comes redheaded (this is a theme of both films) Cammy (Elena Delia), the self-professed town tramp, who completes the fourth.
From there, the cult is pretty much a unit, but unlike many killer kult films, they aren’t zombie-like in robes chanting and dancing naked around a fire, i.e., they still do drugs and smoke butts a lot. Without any job, I’m not quite sure how they can afford that, but I digress… They all have their personality foibles and remain “human” within their goal to free the dark angel. Things intensify and there are definitely some power struggles among the group, who mostly seemed pretty incompetent in their lives before all this started.
This is as much about human personalities, the past effecting the present, and philosophical meanderings, as much as a blood cult aimed at killing and the raising of this woman into flesh. Throughout the film, there is a lot of dialog (with some action), as nearly all the characters have deep thoughts that sometimes come out as philosophy, and other times sounding like greeting cards. Sitting around a fire, sitting around a beach, or sitting in a bar, the dialog seems to flow more than jab, even when doled out by the oft angry and spitting Tex.
It makes sense that a lot of this film takes place near the shore, because the tone and pace of it is like sitting on the beach, watching the waves ebb and flow. It’s sort of languid and steady, but there is still the power of even the smallest motion of the water to destroy, wear down, or to change the shape of its environment. Each action in the film has a direct reaction some other time.
The editing, also done by Wagner, is… cautious. This film, even though it’s a murderous one with a decent body count, is not jarring (other than in certain, unexpected moments, such as a gratuitous kill), but nearly everything happens at a set pace throughout. This is also reflected in the languorous music that dapples like the water throughout, or the use of muted colors to show perhaps the dulling of the senses via chemical substances, or the drugged and washed out lives the characters are living.
It’s pretty obvious things are not going to end well for most, as they tend to do in these kinds of tales, but the whole “the more things change the more they stay the same” touch that runs during the course of the film is a nice touch, which I really enjoyed.
Despite the hint of promiscuity, there isn’t a whole lot of it on the screen, and again while the numbers of people who violently shed their mortal coil is relatively decent, the blood and gore is kept to a minimum. There are, however, decent application effects towards the end without being ridiculously hammy and gory.
If you’re expecting something like a Rob Zombie film where a murderous group hijinks it up while blowing people away, this is definitely not for you. However, if you also like stories to have a brain, and you have the patience to wait it out for the 77 minutes for a conclusion that is not ordinary, you may be pleasantly surprised by this sleeper.