Willem Whitfield | On 03, Dec 2015
If Jill can’t BE Jennifer, she must destroy her.
Excess Flesh is a fresh horror debut from Californian filmmakerÂ Patrick Kennelly. It is a self-proclaiming fever dream about the nightmare of self in the modern world, and a very smooth modern take on the body horror genre.
The plot follows flat mates Jill and Jennifer (Bethany Orr & Mary Loveless) as their friendship is ripped apart. Jennifer is a promiscuous and successful model who pays the rent as Jill tries to get her life back on track. In between the house parties and Jennifer’s drunken taunts, Jill develops an eating disorder to try to keep herself thin and compete with Jennifer. Jill slowly slides into a tempest of hatred and insanity as her life spins out of control- culminating in her decision to chain Jennifer up in their bathroom.
Excess Flesh is an obvious and confronting addition to the body horror subgenre, with all of its gut-wrenching hideousness stemming from the human body. The king of the genre, David Cronenberg (The Fly, Scanners, Eastern Promises),Â helps define the genres in saying:
When we talk about violence, we’re talking about the destruction of the human body, and I don’t lose sight of that. In general, my filmmaking is fairly body-oriented, because what you’re photographing is people, bodies. You can’t really photograph an abstract concept, whereas a novelist can write about that. You have to photograph something physical.
Excess Flesh visualises the destruction of the human body in surreal vignettes where we view the slow-motion machinations of the mouth as Jennifer consumes food. Another memorable sequence is in the preparation of a roast chicken, as the camera investigates the disgusting nature of preparing flesh for human consumption. Jennifer engages in graphic and noisy sex, that is presented as the putrid slithering of two bodies against one another.
Yet Excess Flesh delves deeper into the human body, creating a narrative about the putridity of the human mind. Jill looses control of herself in her attempts to become more like Jennifer. This causes surreal moments of psychological torture for her, imagining the limits of her friends body as she consumes,Â has sex and parties. We see, first hand, the extent of Jill’s jealousy and insanity. This is a really effective way to increase the amount of horrifying moments in the film without going to needless extremes.
Excess Flesh is a film that will speak to people with body image issues, but sometimes in ways that can be damaging. It is not for the faint-hearted, andÂ the only release from its insanity is in retrospect. It is definitely a film that willÂ be delicious to analyse in painstaking detail for all of it’s commentary on body image, party culture and feminism. Luckily, for those of us with strong stomachs, Excess Flesh will receive worldwide release from Acort International in 2016.
Excess Flesh played at Monster Fest 2015.
Image Credits: Walking to the Moon Productions