“I met a lady in the meads
full beautiful – a faery’s child
her hair was long, her foot was light
and her eyes were wild.”
La Belle Dame Sans Merci by John Keats
So begins the horror comedy Tennessee Gothic, a wild romp of a film directed by Jeff Wedding (ABC’s of Death’s Mom Is For Monastery 2013) . The film stars William Ryan Watson (The Dooms Chapel Horror 2016), Jackie Kelly (In Memory Of 2018), Victor Hollingsworth (The Rest of Me 2017), Wynn Reichert (Secretariat 2010), and Christine Poythress (Worm 2013).
When a dim-witted widower and his teenage son offer a beautiful young woman refuge on their farm, their living situation escalates from hysterical comedy to maddening horror once they discover she’s not who she says she is.
As an English major, any film that starts with a quote by Keats has my immediate attention, especially when the film is labeled as a horror comedy. So I cocked an eyebrow with interest and sat back to watch the show. Tennessee Gothic revolves around Sylvia (a magnetic Jackie Kelly), whom we first see in the woods, being held captive by two men. She is a tiny pixie of a woman, but somehow overpowers both men, killing them easily. She is later found wandering down the road by Paw (Hollingsworth), who brings her back to his farm where he lives with his good-natured son, Caleb (Watson).
Sylvia slyly convinces the men that she can help them with the woman’s work as Caleb’s mom passed away several years ago. Soon, she and Caleb are in a heavily sexual relationship… with an emphasis on the heavy. There’s a LOT of sex in this movie! The town Reverend comes sniffing around to check on the new arrival, and even he starts having sex with Sylvia. Of course, Paw joins in on the fun. OH MY! But all this panting excitement has to come to an end, because it’s obvious that Sylvia is not what she seems. Something sinister is afoot. Every person that Sylvia is having sex with starts looking sicker and sicker.
I have to say, after a fairly slapstick and amusing first two thirds of the movie, but the final scenes take a dark turn. That’s when we really see Jackie Kelly shine as an actress. She easily goes from temptress to succubus, proving that Keats’ Lady Without Mercy can have many faces. The other standout in the film was Christine Poythress as the Reverend’s suspicious wife, Mrs. Simms.
The way Tennessee Gothic was shot on 16mm film gives it a gritty grindhouse look that fits the film to a T. Tennessee Gothic is probably not going to be everyone’s cup of tea, but, despite it’s ridiculous moments, it still was a lot of fun. So if you are ready for a sex-fueled romp in Tennessee with a chunk of violence and a smattering of Keats to boot, then absolutely give this one a go!