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Digital Gym Cinema Serves Up Indie Horror Trio For Halloween Week

France’s ‘Knife+Heart’ is tastiest treat of the trio

Photo credit: Altered Innocence

Vanessa Paradis plays Anne, a producer of gay porn in 1979 France in the film "Knife+Heart."

Just in time for Halloween, Digital Gym Cinema is showcasing a trio of indie horror films in which blood and other bodily fluids flow relentlessly. You have been warned.

Digital Gym Cinema programs eclectic fare and often is the only place to find certain independent and foreign films. Starting Friday the micro-cinema (it's a mere 46 seats) is hosting a three-film indie horror showcase featuring one French and two U.S. releases.

Listen to this story by Beth Accomando.


France’s "Knife+Heart" is the tastiest treat of the trio. The film serves up an audaciously stylized homage to Italian slasher films of the 1970s known as giallos. Fittingly, the film is set in 1979, and Anne (Vanessa Paradis) makes cheap gay porn that she views as art. But during her latest production, terror strikes the set as her sexy cast is being targeted by a sadistic masked killer.

Yann Gonzalez's "Knife+Heart" will offend some with excesses that are both artful and tawdry. This is the type of film people often want me to apologize for liking. But, I adore its drunk on style approach especially when it offers a bloody valentine to cinema itself and art on the outermost fringes. If you are a fan of Italian giallo (the word giallo translates literally as “yellow,” and it originated with a particular style of literary thriller that got its name from the cheap yellow covers of the novels published in Italy in the 1950s and ’60s) then this film will assault your senses in the same delicious way. But be forewarned, this giallo style is visceral and steeped in blood and sex. It is a bit like driving by a gruesome accident and having it removed from reality and filtered through a fever dream or drug-induced state. It's alternately gorgeous and brutal and intoxicatingly cinematic in every frame.

Photo credit: Dark Sky FIlms

Dezzy (Dora Madison) unlocks a creative block by taking a new drug in the film "Bliss."

U.S. indie horror

The U.S. film "Bliss" also looks to an artist trying to create a masterpiece. Dezzy (Dora Madison) has hit a creative block and has paintings due for a rapidly approaching exhibit. Stressed out by the pressure to produce on schedule she decides to seek escape through a new drug called Bliss. The drug seems to release her and she has an incredibly productive night painting. Only problem is she can't remember anything. She grows more addicted to the drug and to something even more terrifying.

Directed by Joe Begos, "Bliss" revels in body horror that showcases some inventive effects work. "Bliss" explores the creative process but with a far less affectionate perspective on the artist and the work created. This is a film about going down a rabbit hole and never coming back. Begos has fun with his gross out effects and assembles a stellar supporting cast mostly from the ranks of the brilliant "Re-Animator: The Musical."

Photo credit: Altered Innocence, Dark Sky Films

Impressive and slightly retro poster art for the indie horror films "Knife+Heart," "Bliss" and "The Girl on the Third Floor."

The least interesting of the three films is "The Girl on the Third Floor." It opens with some lovely extreme close-ups of a house in need of renovations, images that portend something less pretty to come.The story focuses on Don (Phil Brooks, aka MMA fighter C.M. Punk), a husband and soon to be father trying to renovate a new home that's possessed (as opposed to the more typical repossessed). The house proves the most interesting character as we uncover information from the past and the secrets it holds but the film never finds a clever way to deal with familiar horror tropes. It stirs some intrigue by giving us a protagonists who turns out to be rather unsavory but then succumbs to too many cliches as it reaches its conclusion.


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Satisfy your celluloid addiction with the Cinema Junkie podcast, where you can mainline film 24/7. This film and entertainment series is run by KPBS Film Critic Beth Accomando.

So if you need a film fix, want to hear what filmmakers have to say about their work, or just want to know what's worth seeing this weekend, then you've come to the right place

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Aired: October 24, 2019 | Transcript

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Beth Accomando
Arts & Culture Reporter

opening quote marksclosing quote marksI cover arts and culture, from Comic-Con to opera, from pop entertainment to fine art, from zombies to Shakespeare. I am interested in going behind the scenes to explore the creative process; seeing how pop culture reflects social issues; and providing a context for art and entertainment.

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