An accident on a deserted highway leaves Janine stranded on the side of the road waiting for help. When “Earl” shows up in his beat-up tow truck she instinctually feels something is not quite right. But it’s not until she wakes up restrained in a barn cellar that she realizes how not right he is. Janine is disciplined, tortured and forced to watch the mutilations of other victims as Earl builds his ideal Frankenstein family from the “best parts” of each girl he meets. He gives her thirty days to become part of the family, or become parts for the family.
This film is brutal. The obvious inclination is to compare the film to Hostel, but that only works on a superficial level. Writer/Director Paul Moore is less concerned with the rippy drippy fleshy parts of the story (although there is plenty of that) and more interested in psychological interplay between the two main characters. Who is in control? When? How does that control shift? Why?
In some ways this makes the film more horrific than a “Hostel”. The anxiety that Moore and crew create are much more intense than the suspense and “Eww factor” that Hostel gives. For example a scene where Earl hoses Janine down for a makeshift “shower” is played off mechanically, with out emotion or lust, like he’s bathing a dog. – is much more horrific and humiliating (to both the characters and the audience) than a knife to the face would have been. Additionally a simple open handed slap creates more tension and fear than a traditionally “gore” scene because the set up that these characters are given.
In both scenes the audience is put in the same mindset as the victim as they scramble for an answer “Why” and what can we/she do to avoid this next time? All the while the clock ticks….
The acting between the two leads is extremely good. Sunny La Rose plays Janine with intelligence; you can always see her mind thinking of ways she might escape. She also shows a surprising range of emotions as she bargains for her life over the course of a full month. Even though her character does things that might be considered typical of “the dumb horror victim” she is convincing, and believable. Similarly when she starts concocting escape plans, you believe that she could not only do these things but do them successfully.
Rob Pralgo as Earl is also great. The role is mostly silent, and Pralgo is incredibly communicative with his body language and his expressions. We never get to know much about Earl’s past but his present is very clearly lived-in. Earl also defies the typical serial killer stereotypes (again sidestepping what might be considered some clichés in the scenario). Earl approaches his horrific tasks with a weary pragmatism. You can almost hear his thoughts, “It’s time to go milk the cows and hose down the slave”. And like most hardworking men, he’s got a sense of humor about it.
Moore infuses the film with a striking unrelenting forward thrust, as he obsessively studies these characters playing each other, and forces the audience to do the same.
The old barn and attached house that the action takes place in serves as a fantastic setting and creates an intimate feel to the film. The only parts where the film stumbles are in the talky flashback/dream sequences. During these sequences Janine learns about herself and her situation in clichéd “cryptic movie doublespeak”.
This is a strong outing by a fresh talent. For fans of “Torture Porn” Keepsake offers a neat twist on the genre. There’s always something else going on just beneath the surface.
I’m not sure I if I liked it, I’m still struggling with some of the images and concepts presented in the film. But I think that struggle is part of the reason we go to see horror films to begin with and Keepsake delivers a steaming pile of it. Official Site
Keepsake was preceded by a short film:
By: Lior Chefetz & Tal Oren
A nice short, from Israel about a mentally Ill girl finally allowed to go home after spending time in an institution. At first she seems to be doing well, but soon she becomes violently unstable. The parents reluctantly take her back to the Hospital “for her own safety”, where she is accepted back by her all too pleased Psychiatrist. Some of the imagery is typical, but the twist at the end is unexpected and effective. The film was made on a scholarship provided by: The Rotem Moria Fund Filming was completed in less than two days! B-