Poison Sweethearts is the 4th flick from Compound Pictures that I’ve seen and as the 3 before it, I enjoyed this one as well. The Campbell Bros. hail from the same state as myself, and naturally, their films look and feel of all things Ohio. More so than any of the previous films do, Poison Sweethearts puts all its Buckeye State misery out in the open (the film takes place in a dismal version of Cleveland) but plays out like a tragic tale from 42nd Street.
The film is an anthology of sorts. It shows the breakdown of 6 different young women who’s estrogen has driven them beyond the brink of insanity. Violence, sexual deviance, manipulation, outrage, and all sordid hedonistic activity is utilized to tell the various stories. If you’ve seen a film made by these Ohio siblings, you’ll no doubt recognize alot of the faces. But it’s the ladies that get top billing in this Sleazoid Express-ready number. Ashleigh Holeman, Roza Hadet, Laura Robbins, and Jen Meissner appear as well as a couple new faces that round out the cautionary tales.
As in previous efforts, the brothers Campbell have the ability to set a movie in modern yet classic settings. Call it influence or intuition, you leave one of their films wondering whether you just watched some grimy grindhouser or just a very well planned homage. This is used to great effect in Poison Sweethearts. Cutting between the six stories are narrations and “educational” pieces from a guy who clearly knows what he’s talking about-he’s got a long, white beard and a tweed sports coat for chrissakes! What we get are warnings of how the female mind works. Is there anything more terrifying on this planet?
Being that I am particularly fond of the grindhouse/drive-in/Sleazoid Express era of cinema, I was tickled to see one of my favorite indie film crews paying homage to the films from that time. I’m certainly reminded of Doris Wishman’s films when watching with the narration, “documentary”-styled educational bits, and the female-centric storyline. But there’s also that definite Italian nastiness mixed with some larger than life dialogue/character ala’ John Waters. One of the highlights (for me) is the story of a pimp and his ho. Scheme S. Schemer (marvelously played by Raymond Turturro-seriously, this guy needs to land some bigger film roles because he’s outstanding!) is a pimp who’s best ho is too much trouble but too beautiful to treat like the others. The authenticity is what makes this sequence work so damn well. It has all the pre-requisite shots that made sex/blaxploitation films of this nature so great, complete with the streetwalkin’ strut. This eternal struggle never ends in a pleasant way and this time would be no different. And so is the plight of each character in this film…all victims of these Poison Sweethearts.
Poison Sweethearts has all the nastiness, sexiness, and silliness of an expoitation classic. The only difference here being, it’s done with a deliberate tongue-in-cheek. Post-modern irony is the sturdy foundation on which this house stands. But the house itself, is the entertainment. Luke and Andy Campbell set themselves apart from the rest of the indie film making crews throughout the world by having enough quirk to balance their cool. It’s a damn shame no one has given this bunch a truckload of money yet, but when they do, I expect a very entertaining result.