Tuesday, November 15, 2016

The Anatomy of Monsters: Cruising for Serial Killers

Sarah Chambers and Andrew Costello make the singles scene in Looking for Mr. Goodbar look safe and healthy. When they leave a bar together they only have one thing on their minds and it is not very nice. Their shared compulsion for random killing will either bring them together or set them at each other’s throats in Byron C. Miller’s The Anatomy of Monsters (trailer here), which releases today on DVD and VOD, from Artsploitation.

There was not much for Chambers to do in Seattle except DJ techno-whatever and kill people, until she met Nick Jones. He is the kind of hip, culinarily-skilled dude, who could make legit settling-down material. However, Chambers has that secret about being a serial killer. She thinks the squirrely, uptight Costello will find some lessons in her story, so she continues to tell it, even though he would seem to have the drop on her. On the other hand, Chambers is vastly more experienced, which clearly counts for a lot.

The distributor of the anthology film Holiday is fortunate it released before Artsploitation brought the Seattle-produced Anatomy to a wider audience, because the “New Year” story is built around a similar premise, but it does far less with it. Miller and co-screenwriter Paul Morgan also have crafted some dialogue as sharp as the psychopaths’ hunting knives. Tabitha Bastien just chews up monologuish lines like she is an old hand at Tarantino and Stillman indies. Her screen presence is absolutely electric.

Connor Marx neatly counterbalances Bastien as the low key, funny in a non-threatening kind of way Jones. Keiko Green is also terrific as Chambers’ snarky frienemy, Amy Simmons. However, Jesse Lee Keeter’s Costello is such a sniveling tool, it is hard to maintain much suspense regarding his ultimate fate.

Anatomy looks very much like the micro-indie it is, if not even less so. However, its course, garish look aptly suits its hard-edged attitude. Surprisingly effective at straddling the crossroads of horror and dark psychological thrillers, The Anatomy of Monsters is recommended pretty enthusiastically for genre fans who are not overly sensitive hot house orchids, now that it is available for home viewing, from Artsploitation.