Welcome back to Film Gutter – that time of the week where we swim way past the shallow end of mainstream cinema to the deep end – dare we say dangerous end – of fringe film. We're looking at a very recent piece this week, and a new entry into the pantheon of extreme horror – Phil Stevens' Flowers. I knew practically nothing about this film before getting started – the only thing I was aware of was that the film had no dialogue at all, a rare feat in cinema and something that can add a distinct layer of challenge to watching any movie. I struggled to think of anything besides Begotten that had gone down that particular road. So, ultimately, I was arriving to this one with no preconceptions and no real sense of what I was getting into.
80 minutes later, all I could honestly say to myself was 'wow'. Flowers was absolutely something else – darkly beautiful, abstract, stunningly scored, brilliantly acted, nightmarish... I'm more than willing to stick my neck out and say this is the first true masterpiece of extreme horror since the incredible Martyrs, and doubtless the best film I've reviewed for this series.
Flowers is a very dark and shadowy film, and begins with six dead bodies shown in a crawlspace beneath a house. One by one the six women there suddenly start to come to – the 'flowers' which the title refer to – and each make their own attempt for freedom. The house they are trying to make their way into – and in turn out of – is owned by a psychotic male lead, again never named. He is the reason all the 'flowers', and many more corpses and skeletons within the house, are dead. The vast house he lives in is something of a museum to his depravities, with room kept intact as shrines to each kill he has made.
What follows has the illusion of being a montage, but there's probably more than holds the film together than first meets the eye. As each 'flower' emerges from the dusty (and often gore-filled) spaces behind the walls of the nightmarish abode, they emerge into rooms that hold the story of their individual and disturbing fates. The uniqueness of what each 'flower' faces in their personal hell keeps the film absolutely fascinating, and the visuals are not rushed in any instance, preferring to build atmosphere before delivering its more disturbing content. But the fate of the 'flowers' are inextricably tied together, and come together in a brilliant final scene that simultaneously wraps things up and leaves a strong element of mystery. The acting on behalf of each of the 'flowers' – none of whom are actresses I am familiar with – is very good all around, with each having to do a lot with simple facial expressions and body language. The fact that dialogue is eschewed is, in my opinion, a benefit to this film – the soundtrack and effects really come to the fore without it, and are cleverly considered in each scene
What writer and director Phil Stevens has created here is the epitome of everything that can be good about independent horror, but all too often isn't – dark, daring, challenging, visually and aurally interesting and genuinely unique in presentation. There is no doubt a genuine artist behind this movie, and what has been achieved with a mere $20,000 dollars here puts so many mainstream offering with hundreds of times the budget to shame. This film, quite simply, is an open challenge to the world of extreme horror – beat that.
RATING – 10/10. What else were you expecting? Having enjoyed the dubious pleasures of many an extreme horror film, I've scarcely seen anything with such visceral content, such creative vision and such shadowy beauty, let alone combining all three into one movie. If you're a regular reader of this series, or you like your horror with an extreme edge, this is quite simply a must-see. Flowers is a glorious bouquet of dark visions that is a welcome gift to fans of the genre. It's a hearty endorsement of 10/10 for this one.
'FLOWERS will be available through UNEARTHED FILMS this Fall as a special edition release.'