'Eat Me': Film Review
Jacqueline Wright plays a suicidal woman who forms an emotional bond with a violent home invader in this perverse psychological thriller based on her stage play.
You have to give Jacqueline Wright credit for sheer daringness with her screenplay and starring performance in Eat Me. Few actresses have crafted such a challenging, debasing vehicle for themselves as this indie feature adapted from her play. Unfortunately, her prodigious effort has resulted in little more than a repugnant showcase for her acting talents that few viewers will be able to stomach for the duration of its running time. The film, while not easily forgotten, is almost impossible to digest.
In this film, marking the directorial debut of Adrian A. Cruz, Wright plays Tommy, who in the opening minutes is seen meticulously preparing for her suicide. She leaves a week's worth of food for her dog and takes pains to hide her extensive dildo collection. While gobbling handfuls of pills, she watches reruns of vintage sitcoms including The Beverly Hillbillies and Mr. Ed.
Her best-laid plans go awry when, after she's passed out cold, a pair of home invaders burst into her house. The younger one soon departs, but the other, Bob (Brad Carter, HBO's True Detective), decides to take advantage of Tommy's vulnerable state. He proceeds to sexually assault her and perform a series of other humiliating and violent atrocities as she remains nearly comatose (For the sake of the reader's delicate sensibilities, the specific acts won't be described here, but only those with very strong stomachs should dare seeing the film.) Along the way, he takes a break to make popcorn and join her on the couch to watch TV.
At a certain point, however, Tommy regains her faculties. She wakes up, smiles wickedly and says, "I'm beginning to feel better." The seemingly innocuous line has never quite had a more sinister ring. She begins to invite her attacker's abuses and even attempts to goad him into killing her. It's then that the two deeply troubled souls begin to form a sick, twisted bond. Each of them delivers a harrowing monologue that provides some explanation for their fractured emotional state. The arrival of another of Bob's accomplices (Michael Shamus Wiles), who makes his partner look positively gentle, drives the proceedings into even more gruesome territory.
The first half of Eat Me would seem to be the sort of twisted horror film designed for people who feast on depictions of violence and sexual abuse, while the second veers into John Cassavetes-influenced psychological territory. The two segments don't mesh well. Those who might respond favorably to the baroque material (God help them) are unlikely to appreciate the character-defining moments, while more serious-minded viewers will probably not even make it that far. Further, the proceedings have a stilted, artificial air that's not entirely the result of the material's obvious stage origins.
And yet the film does exert a perverse fascination, the same sort that compels drivers to slow down while passing a horrific car accident. The performers deserve much of the credit, with Wright baring herself both physically and emotionally to dig deeply into her character's tortured soul and Carter making his white trash figure less of a caricature and surprisingly sympathetic at times.
The low-budget effort can't be faulted on a technical level either, with director Cruz infusing the story's single setting with cinematic polish. It makes it all the more a shame that so much strenuous effort has been expended on such unsavory, repulsive material.
Production: Eat Me Films
Distributor: Blue Fox Entertainment
Cast: Jacqueline Wright, Brad Carter, Michael Shamus Wiles, Kebe Dunn, Sid Hammond, Logan Sparks, Doris Barton
Director: Adrian A. Cruz
Screenwriter: Jacqueline Wright
Producers: Flo Speakman, Dena Hysell, Megan McCulloch, Kirsten Vangsness
Executive producers: Todd Slater, James Huntsman
Director of photography: Nicholas Trikonis
Production designer: Noelle Maline
Editors: Adrian A. Cruz, G.J. Eckterncamp
Composer: Martin Carrillo
Costume designer: Lauren Oppelt