Ryan Swantek’s ‘Panther Ridge’ Takes BDSM to A Whole New Level

When I first reported on filmmaker Ryan Swantek’s sophomoric project, Panther Ridge, I wasn’t quite sure what kind of film this was going to be. Would it be sexy? Disgusting? Terrifying? How about all three?

I got the chance to check it out, and boy, was I surprised.

Official Synopsis for Panther Ridge

A young woman, Vera, enters into an underground world of extreme BDSM films where she stars in her very first scene.

Panther Ridge still
Sexy? Check. Bloody? Check. Terrifying? Check.

Panther Ridge was written and directed by Ryan Swantek, who also had a small acting part as Bodyguard #2. Along with Ryan, the rest of the cast includes Seth Goodfellow (Chicago Fire TV series), Clinton Bailiff (Cold Dawn 2018), Kerry Hempel (Fire on the Green 2018), Jada Poon (The Real Stephen Blatt miniseries) and newcomers Chenara Imrith and Oren Biton.

Once again, many of Ryan’s Ringling College of Art & Design classmates helped him to create Panther Ridge. While Ryan wrote and directed the short, he was helped along with Zifeng Zhuo (Cherry 2017), who acted as his second director. Although Harrison Stagner (Barry Baker: Aspiring Serial Killer 2017) was lead cinematographer, he was also assisted by Tony Ahedo (Barry Baker: Aspiring Serial Killer 2017), Brandon Richards (Containment 2018) and Jeremy Teran (Dogblood Mouthwash 2017). Newcomer Maciej Ruminkiewicz composed the score, while Austin O’Reilly (Dogblood Mouthwash 2017) edited the final film. And the uber talented Jess Marie created all of those gory special FX.

At first, I couldn’t figure out what the title of this short meant. There are no panthers, and no one stands on a ridge. But then I remembered from talking with Ryan (read my interview with him here) that his first film, White Willow, was titled after a street near his house. Come to find out, Panther Ridge was named after the community where the short was filmed. So there you go.

If you’ve been staring at the poster up at the top of the article and you’re wondering why it looks so familiar, here’s why: Spanish artist Yuly Alejo based the look on Caravaggio’s painting, Judith Beheading Holofernes. I absolutely love this!

Caravaggio, Judith Beheading Holofernes
Caravaggio’s ‘Judith Beheading Holofernes’

As for the short itself, Panther Ridge reminded me a bit of The Strangers. The victims (Bailiff, Poon) were just regular people, minding their own business, raising a baby and enjoying their own private piece of heaven. Then along comes Ivan (Goodfellow) in his Lucifer suit and tie, and he destroys everything that this couple – his “clients” – know and love. Who were these people? Where did they come from? Did they do something to deserve this? These guys could have been anyone at all, and therefore, anyone – even you or me – could find themselves in this situation… just like the couple from The Strangers.

I also thought it was incredibly clever to have the two women, Kat (Hempel) and Vera (Imrith), look so similar. These two girls could be twins in the right light. They also dressed alike, with stiletto heels and fishnet stockings and leather corsets, their dark hair tied back in tight ponytails. It was like Robert Palmer’s “Simply Irresistible” girls decided to make a snuff film. Although both girls were hot, Kerry Hempel’s Kat was calm, cool and sexy as hell. She is the ultimate dominatrix.

Panther Ridge still
Kat teaches her slave what it means to bleed

I can’t close this review of Panther Ridge without mentioning the brass knuckles shot. When Kat pummels her submissive in the face with a handful of brass, we see the man’s head whip to the side in glorious, bloody slow motion. This shot was genius and whoever thought it up (Swantek Stagner? Bueller?) gets a well-deserved thumbs up from me. This was, by far, my favorite part of the short. Also, the music from newcomer Maciej Ruminkiewicz was outstanding. I never would have guessed that this was his first feature film. It fit perfectly in with the tone and light of Panther Ridge. Very impressive.

Lastly, I want to mention one small thing that I noticed that brought me out of the film for a second. There’s a scene where Kat is about to wake the woman up with a cattle prod, and as the camera focuses in from another angle, we see the woman’s head drop to her chest, even though she wasn’t supposed to be conscious. Not a big thing, but I did happen to notice it. Also, after her perfect cheeky creation in White Willow, I was hoping to see more of Jess Marie’s work. The one closeup shot we got of some cheek damage was, unfortunately, unsatisfying. One of the bloody deaths even occured offscreen, which surprised me, but not in a good way. All in all, these are relatively small complaints compared to the rest of the awesomeness that is Panther Ridge.

Now that you’ve read my review, you get to watch the short itself! Check it out below and let us know what you thought about Panther Ridge in the comments below!

About Tracy Allen

As the co-owner and Editor-in-Chief of PopHorror.com, Tracy has learned a lot about independent horror films and the people who love them. Now an approved critic for Rotten Tomatoes, she hopes the masses will follow her reviews back to PopHorror and learn more about the creativity and uniqueness of indie horror movies.

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