It’d be a mistake to call Her Name Was Christa a James L. Edwards’ comeback movie. To paraphrase Billie Holiday, he never went away to begin with. Edwards is probably best known for his roles in Bloodletting (1997), Polymorph (1996), The Dead Next Door (1989), Robot Ninja (1989) and Killer Campout (2017 – read our review here). But the indie horror icon has gotten older, and after watching his directorial debut, I’d say he’s wiser, too.
Her Name Was Christa is equal parts psychological horror and genuine romance. It stars Edwards as Stephen, a lonely, sweet-natured telemarketer who still lives in his childhood home. He’s pudgy, on the wrong side of 40, and buries his feelings of hopelessness and inertia in his mind-numbing job. “I know what to expect,” he says about his desk slavery. “There’s no surprises.” But restlessness lurks beneath Stephen’s surface stupor, and it leads him to Christa (Shianne Daye: upcoming First Date), a tough call girl he soon convinces to give him The Girlfriend Experience.
Already cash-strapped, Stephen starts laying out good money — not for sex, but for companionship… just hanging out and talking. The kind of simple human interaction that people in relationships often take for granted.
Christa eventually thaws, love blooms, and of course, tragedy strikes. Stephen – and the viewer – are forced to ask themselves: Does catastrophe stand in the way of true love? After watching Her Name Was Christa, part of me wonders: Why the hell SHOULD it?
Don’t get me wrong. This is still a horror film. There’s some truly gruesome scenes that are not for the squeamish. The ominous synth music and numerous night exterior shots also help to set a creepy tone. I found myself thinking of the classic, Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer (1986). But just having turned 42 myself, I found the real terror lies in the film’s bleak depiction of middle age.
In fact, Edwards said much of the material came from personal experience.
“The true horror of Christa is the fear of becoming older and being alone. The idea of the film came to me when I had first turned 40. I was going through my second divorce, I was unemployed, I was emotionally fragile and I was alone. I had no clue what the future was going to hold, but it didn’t look good. That fear of the future was the genesis for the story.”
One of my biggest joys was noticing how the supporting cast clearly understood the material. Drew Fortier (Dwellers 2019), Rick Jermain (WrestleMassacre 2018 – read our review here), and Kaylee Williams (Mrs. Clause 2018 – read our review here) turn in solid and frequently humorous performances. They’re revolving satellites in Stephen’s orbit, often bumping into him, but never getting to see the real Stephen. Not like Christa does.
Her Name Was Christa lays bare an uncomfortable truism: Most people are so lonely and adrift that they have to find new reasons to get out of bed every day. But, oddly enough, it’s also a reminder to count our blessings and keep on seeking.
Her Name Was Christa is currently getting shopped to distributors. Another option is self-release, with a limited edition DVD released this fall. VOD plans are also in the works. We’ll keep up updated as soon as we hear any news.