My Name is A by Anonymous (2012)

Alyssa and her sidekick are inseparable. It is quickly established the sidekick will be mostly silent, she does everything Alyssa does from putting on the same make up and they take turns cutting each other. The girls are both strawberry blond teens and are quick to anger. Two unnamed others come along, The Angst (Alex Damiano) and The Performer (Teona Dolnikova). The girls all have similar likes and behaviors-such as make-up style, self destructiveness through cutting, etc… The thing is Alyssa is a shattered girl and try as she might the world has a way of keeping the teens on the ropes. Based on the true story of a teenage thrill killer, MY NAME IS A BY ANONYMOUS tackles the question of motivation. Not why so much as why not or maybe even why not sooner?

Alyssa is a girl who never had a chance. She has been neglected, psychologically, physically, and sexually abused. She’s fractured and bounces from highs to lows. Her only interactions are with her sidekick, Angst and Performer. They are not uplifting or fun as much as volatile and destructive. Each of the girls practices some form of self-harm. All seem to cut and each display other maladaptions. It is painful watching Alex Damiano playing the angsty bulimic. She forces herself to throw up into mason jars and keeps them on a shelf. She looks frighteningly skinny as she showers and is terrificly disturbing throughout the whole film. Teona is the consummate performer. She is always just barely keeping it together to pass as mostly “normal.”

Eventually the line between the four begins to blur as sidekick and Alyssa don identical makeup and Teona the performer turns around with a start at the sound of a knock and the door is answered by the Angst who is soon weeping and begging her father to stop molesting her to no avail. When Alyssa plays a CD it is actually a song by Performer-presented complete and like a music video interlude. The line disappears entirely as young Elizabeth (Kaliya Skye) is escorted to her unavoidable fate. 

The actors acquit themselves adequately with Damiano pretty much stealing the show. It is painful to watch her and I mean that as a compliment and not a critique. Much of the camera work is done by the actors as well as the primary cameraman Arturo Guerrero. The shots are framed tightly and though I think it could have benefited by taking a step or two back I can see where the closeness of the shots help enhance intimacy with the characters as well as claustrophobia. 

MY NAME IS A is a stark and haunting portrayal of a teen who has become horribly lost. Not quite a horror film but a quite horrifying film for sure. Most of the film is presented as found footage style shaky cam and some of the scenes involving Angst and Performer are not presented as such and jar the viewer out of the narrative a bit, as though warning you to keep your distance, while lending to the ethereal nature of the two. This movie will alter your mood. There is no question about that. If it doesn’t make you angry or melancholy it will leave you questioning what goes on in society today. It pushes and pulls you out of your comfort zone and leaves a hollow feeling by the time the closing credits roll. Snapshots appear throughout the end credits and if you are familiar with the real life case you will recognize that the pictures are the movies Alyssa miming the real life killer. This added bonus makes the experience all the more uncomfortable. This well executed flick will be coming to you from the folks at Wild Eye Releasing.

A Gun for Jennifer (1997)

Fierce, violent and nasty.  Todd Morris and Deborah Twyss’ (KICK-ASS) independent film A GUN FOR JENNIFER is a visceral experience.  Lensed in New York City, the film provides a lot of great shots of late 90s NYC from the back alleys to some of the seedier parts of the city.  I have to admit that I went into the film with the idea of the now rampant Joss Whedon flavor of girl-power and was pleasantly surprised by what I found.  Not quite I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE, thank goodness, the film is mercifully more chaste and barring an attempted rape spares the viewer from seeing more rapes on screen.  The tagline “Dead men don’t rape” should clue you in that A GUN FOR JENNIFER is a rough ride so buckle up.  

Allison is an Ohio girl fresh off the bus in New York looking for a better life than crumbling steel city Steubenville has to offer.  She is on the run from her husband and her white bread past.  When a couple of thugs drag her in an alley for beating and a rape she is saved by a group of female vigilantes.  She’s as scared of her gun wielding rescuers as she was by her would be rapists.  The five vigilantes, Jessie, Becky, Trish, Grace, and Priscilla are the 42nd Street version of the Powderpuff Girls.  They are from a diverse background with one thing in common; all of them have been victimized by men in their life.  In order to fulfill their mission they work as strippers to find men that need the special kind of justice that they dispense.  Soon the reluctant Allison…now Jennifer because she is choosing a new life for herself…joins the girl gang in their quest for vengeance against the male sex.

The girls work at The Widow’s Den for Annie, a former rape counsellor and feminist activist.  When they aren’t patrolling the streets and alleys they find plenty of men that need killing at work.  They lure men who have crossed them, as in get mad at having shit spilled on them,  to stay after hours and force them strip.  After that they rape one of them with a pool cue driving him to commit suicide.  When the dead kid’s older brother shows up for revenge they shoot him in the face before the police arrive.

They lose even more credibility when they execute a few women left over after they massacre a drug gang.  They say she chose her friends poorly but they don’t even consider she could have been kidnapped or held against her will etc… They even blast a cop they had seen the day before.  They mow him down with a barrage of shots and shoot him in the head.  These young women are more than just feminists, they are extreme and damaged people.  As the movie progresses every man they encounter does nothing to dissuade them of their stance that most men they encounter must die.  In fact I think that every men the vigilantes encounter they kill or sodomize.  Eventually they feed on the media frenzy they generate and when they botch a high profile hit the group starts to splinter forcing Jessie to go off on her own.  

A GUN FOR JENNIFER is one of the grittiest and most nihilistic flicks I’ve ever seen.  It shows the seedy underbelly of a crumbling society and it shows that there is no hope for it.  The ending is an orgy of flaying and gunplay culminating in one of the most gruesome ends imaginable for a rape revenge film and they do it on an independent film’s budget.  The film is well shot, though the German release is a high quality transfer of a somewhat damaged print.  The girl punk soundtrack is quite excellent and establishes the mood of the film nicely.  The acting is mostly okay with a few deliveries falling flat.  One of the more implausible story points is summed up nicely in one of the more awkward lines, “We didn’t want to kill cops but it happened.  There’s nothing that can be done about it now.”  Um…sure there is.  Unfortunately if you kill a cop you get your ass kicked.  There’s a lot of unrealistic collateral damage in A GUN FOR JENNIFER.