★★★★ Written and Directed by David Salcido, Troy Scoughton Jr. and, Aron Hethcox, & Sheridan O’Donnell Starring Tawnya Bass, Donny Prosise, Jack Lutz, Marissa Bond, Jason Baldwin, & Brendan Meyer Indie Film Review by Chris Olson
A soul-collecting demon, Adolf Hitler in drag, and a sex-crazed Cupid are just some of the bizarre eccentricities of indie film Lady Belladonna's Night Shades, which contains a total of four separate short films, an anthology all joined by dark themes and the Lady herself.
Belladonna (Tawnya Bass) occupies The Abyss, a place of demonic torture for sinners, where she basks in her glory as #1 soul catcher, trading off flirtatious banter with her first mate Adolf "Addy" Hitler (Donny Prosise). Whilst breaking the fourth wall, Belladonna regales the viewer, with poetic vocabulary, tales of sinning and sinners, before introducing a short film. Each film varies in tone and plot, but each has a darker undertone; whether it be murder, violence, or revenge.
Like Rocky Horror Picture Show meets Tales From The Crypt, David Salcido's film is a tantalising taster menu of sordid immorality, graphic violence, and stories of tragedy. Viewers are treated to each of these films, which stand up well on their own, but when brought together like a sinners smorgasbord, they become something quite special. There are some phenomenal performances, not least from Bass herself, whose vibrant pantomime and double entendres make for fantastic respite during the shorts.
The first short film introduced is Last Night on Mars, directed by Troy Scoughton Jr. and Aron Hethcox. Focusing on a would-be murderer (Jason Baldwin), the movie shows him haunted by disturbing visions, such as being manhandled by his mirror, or hearing creepy voices. The atmosphere becomes even tenser when our antagonist decides to seek relief from his suffering by taking out his terrifying tendences on a slumber part of unsuspecting girls. Tense and thrilling, there is a Scream-like quality to Last Night on Mars that captures the barbaric humanity behind the murderer, which perfectly suits a place in the anthology of Lady Belladonna’s Night Shades.
Short film number two remains in suburbia, but this time a touch less dark - well at first. Perfect, another David Salcido film, stars Marissa Bond as a seemingly normal housewife about to be subjected to a daytime house invasion, when she finds the body of her husband on the floor of their home. However, what transpires is anything but normal, as Bond’s character reveals hidden depths. A little on the nose with the comedy script, Perfect is the lightest of the shorts that Belladonna introduces, but is not without its charms. The reveals are well-timed and there is a sense of cheekiness that seems to feed off the awkward situation that will make audiences squirm nicely.
Up next was short film The Wake Up Call, a brilliantly atmospheric thriller from filmmaker Sheridan O’Donnell, set inside a hotel room, where its occupant (Anthony Kumpf) is not exactly having the most relaxing stay. During the night he is subjected to strange and disconcerting sounds emanating from the next room. As the mystery of it all gets the better of him, his curiosity could be his undoing.
The fourth, and in my opinion best, short film was Wolff’s Law. Also directed by Sheridan O’Donnell, the story is of a boy (Brendan Meyer) suffering from intense bullying at school, who then decides to fight back, attempting to conquer the fear which consumes him. Bleak, moody, and hugely affecting, Wolff’s Law is simply a must-see short film. Meyer’s performance is subtle, understated, and, at times, brutally gripping. The film has a consuming atmosphere and heavy themes, making it the perfect main headline for Lady Belladonna’s Night Shades.
For viewers who like their shorts dirty (that sounds weird) and their stories dark, Lady Belladonna does not disappoint. This is a wonderful achievement for indie films, something which viewers are gagging for, because it has style, talent, and a touch of naughtiness keeping the whole experience above the water. Whether you strap on some crotchless pants, grab a spanking paddle, or just settle into a cosy armchair, the short film offerings are enough to please even the most reserved of cinephiles.
Watch the official Movie Trailer for Lady Belladonna's Night Shades below: