Serving up part one of the crowdfunded Bad Cookie Combo we introduced you all to last summer, Bad Cookie Pictures presents Nepenthes, a body horror short of sticky proportions. Longtime readers know that we’ve been covering the projects coming out Ariel Hansen and Christopher “Topher” Graham’s production company for years, with reviews for Ready to Burst, Paint the Town Red and The Man In The Rabbit Mask, which you can read here, here and here. They duo has also started a podcast called BC Is Creepy, where all things weird and wonderful in British Columbia are discussed. They have also released two VR films called Tune In… For Murder! and Relaxing ASMR. And now we get to review Nepenthes, a viscous video that had me squirming in my seat.
Ariel and Topher are not new to the body horror genre. In their first short, Ready to Burst (2016), Ariel played a pregnant woman who thinks there is something very wrong with the baby growing inside her, the utmost in pregnancy terror. The filmmakers are passionate about exploring the intimate savagery that is body horror, never shy about twisting social commentary into the esoteric alarm that comes with imagining one’s own body betraying them in horrifying ways.
Nepenthes was written and directed by Ariel Hansen and produced by Selena Raskin and Topher Graham. Jordan Barnes-Crouse was the man behind the camera. The film stars American Mary’s Tristan Risk and Ariel Slack (Unicorns For Sale miniseries). Star Trek Beyond’s Carolyn Williams created the slim and prosthetics while Bad Cookie regular Kevin “The Complete” Williams composed the score.
Max (Slack) is desperate to make a meaningful connection, but when she decides to meet an online dating match at home she gets herself into a painfully sticky situation.
Cool connection: Tristan Risk, who stars in this Bad Cookie short at Venus, just made her directorial debut with her own horror short called Parlour Tricks (you can read our review here). Bad Cookie helped produce the film for Miss Risk.
Says Ariel Hansen:
“Body horror in particular is fun to explore as a woman. Our bodies have been picked apart, mystified and objectified for so many years, it’s quite cathartic to show a female body opened up or turned inside out as if it’s not her own – which I think many women have already been made to feel. Perhaps not in quite as violent a way, though… The most important thing for me is a makeup artist who can execute blood, guts and any other bodily secretions well.”
I will say that Hansen got her wish as far as finding an FX artist who can recreate all of the drippings and castoffs from the human body, as Carolyn Williams did a disgustingly fabulous job with both the sticky slime as well as Max’s skin reaction to said slime. The long, thread-like strands of gloppy goo that clung to her body and stretched to inconceivable lengths made me feel almost claustrophobic. The stuff was like oozing spider webs that stuck to everything like Br’er Rabbit to the Tar Baby. The thought of getting any of that stuff on my face and near my breathing holes where I wouldn’t be able to get it off with my now mucousy hands almost sent me hunting for a paper bag to breath into. I can almost taste it.
On the other end of the spectrum is Venus (Risk), the gorgeous and seductive woman who drew Max in with her provocative photos and obvious interest. After being stood up for her original date, Max didn’t need much convincing. She did hesitate for a second outside of Venus’ door, maybe wondering if she would find a 50 year old pervert in crusty boxers waiting for her on the other side, but her loneliness overcame and she crossed the threshold. What she found was not a middle-aged Catfish, but something much, much worse.
I love the way Hansen took the beauty and sexuality of a woman and turned it into a death trap. Much like the sirens in Greek mythology, Venus is able to hypnotize her victims with her sensuality using the promise of very basic human needs. The hunger for love, acceptance and companionship combined with the assurance of sex is a draw that many not only desire but actually crave, like a starving man would yearn for a food. Speaking of hunger, the want for food and sustenance is what Venus lusts after. Between the hunger and the sex, these two have a near symbiotic relationship. Of course, finding that yin yang balance in something as clinical and cold as a cell phone dating app only brings out the heat of their need all the more.
Nepenthes has already screened at the Portland Horror Film Festival this past June, and will now be showing at Horrible Imaginings Film Festival on September 1st and at the Sick Chick Film Festival on September 29th. Be sure to keep your eyes peeled to catch this one, especially if you’ve ever swiped right.
Stay tuned to PopHorror for a review of the upcoming Bad Cookie short, The Devil And I.