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Friday, April 21, 2017

Death by Love


Death by Love
1990
Alan Grant

One of the things that makes low-budget shot-on-video (SOV) movies so interesting, is there is often much less of a filter between creator and audience. In a less media savvy era, a creator would often unabashedly put their interests on screen with little concern for a perceived audience. This is often excruciating (Boardinghouse (1982)), transgressive (Black Devil Doll from Hell (1984)), and deeply weird (Sledgehammer (1983)) by turns. Death by Love might fall short in the exciting category, but it does serve as an excellent documentation of a director/star who really wanted to grind on actresses and built a movie around his cause.

Joel Frank (Alan Grant) is a famous sculptor. His favorite subject is giant papier-mâché ladies, and he’s quite good at courting sexy women to pose for him. He is also quite good at getting them into bed. Unfortunately, these women seem to end up dead at an alarming rate. This has attracted the attention of two inept cops and mysterious figure who seems to be tracking Joel’s every move. Who is someone stalking Joel? Who is actually responsible for the killings? Could those cops look any more unprofessional? Also, what is up with that terrible sculpture?

Nuprin advertisement or horror movie? You decide.
Death by Love has a relatively simple story: Joel meets a woman, they have sex, she ends up dead, cut to either the mysterious figure or the dumb cops, and repeat. It becomes evident that the film is really a thin veneer for Alan Grant to get naked with women on camera. Director Grant does manage to push the story in a direction that neatly ties it all together. At its heart, Death by Love is a very traditional monster story, and I think with some less irksome characterization, it could have been a better film. On the other hand, without the languid pace and off-putting characters, the film would not have much personality at all.

There is plenty of sex and nudity in this movie, none of it is appetizing. If the movie possesses any one major fault is that these sex scenes slow down an already slow story and eventually they grate on the viewer by interrupting what little plot there is. There are number of scenes of people standing around talking endless which doesn't help things much either.

"Oh, I can hear the ocean."
It can be very difficult to push commercial video recording equipment from the pre-digital era into looking good on screen. Death by Love is good example of this, everything is washed out and brown. If you only saw the opening scenes, you would swear it is leading up to show you how to do aerobics for seniors or cat grooming isntructions, it has the unassuming blandness that the vaporwave or creepy faux infomercials that air on Adult Swim often try to capture.

Death by Love is an odd minor note in the already odd subgenre of SOV. It is quirky without being notably so, I don’t think it’s going to make any converts to micro-budget moviemaking, but it is an entertaining enough way to make eighty-five minutes pass by.

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