With Film Threat’s The Theta Girl, the best aspect of diving into the visual insanity of this ambitious independent film is that you almost forget that, in most cases, a story’s gotta make sense.
Now, that’s not to say there’s not a lot to like about first time screenwriter, David Axe and debut director, Christopher Bickel‘s film. And the return of beloved cult institution Film Threat, brought back to sinister life as a production house, is itself a reason for horror heads to celebrate. There’s also the superior performances of Victoria Elizabeth Donofrio (our heroine, Gayce), Shane Silman (as legitimately creepy, Brother Marcus) and Darrelle Dove (as the drug dealer with a heart of gold, Derek).
Also, did I mention this film cost $14,000 dollars to make? While that might cause you to lower your expectations for The Theta Girl, that price tag should instead make you take notice. Because the inspired effects work and editing of this piece is really something to behold. Listen, there are films coming out of Hollywood with 5x the budget that don’t come close to the inventive daring nature of Christopher Bickel’s camera work. The phone is gonna ring for these guys, believe me.
That’s why I wish I could give a one hundred percent thumbs up on this scrappy little film… But sadly, I can’t. Not without some reservations.
First, our story: ” THE THETA GIRL follows the trials and tribulations of young drug-dealer, Gayce Delko, and the hallucinogen she peddles. Gayce is a low-time drug dealer with a mission, which is to spread the gospel of Theta. Derek aids her in quest by hooking her up with his hippie remnant connection (played with weird gusto by Mike Amason) and providing her a drug dealing conscience. Gayce, however, is all about turning the locals on to that theta thug life, her friends’ proto-punk band and being the queen of the club. Until a mysterious stranger from her past (Silman) turns up and drops theta… Then it gets bad to worse to weird and streets run wet with red dyed strawberry jam.
Good times, right? For the most part, yes. But The Theta Girl gets its own glorious way with too many plot threats and dropped narrative points. Why do theta users share the same hallucination? Why do these hallucinations center around a being who appears to have been an extra from La Cage aux Folles? How is that same being, whose voice is like Kim Kardashian on Helium, so metaphysically profound? The questions abound.
The narrative problems trip the film up at points were we should be grooving with visuals. The truly unneeded and underdeveloped backstory between Gayce and Brother Marcus serves to distract from the film’s sparkling Sergio Leone style dénouement. The hinted at spiritual and metaphorical element of the film spins off into space without resolution. Hell, I’m left confused why big time, connected, drug-dealer Marcus drives a mini-van.
The worst part is The Theta Girl didn’t need any add-ons. For the style, budget and acting level of the film all it needed to do was to lay out the stakes and set all phasers to kill. I would have been happier than a mud clam if we’d had 75 minutes of all out mayhem between credits.
I’ll never say it’s a bad thing to have great ambition, especially when the end result is as visually exciting as The Theta Girl. But for all parties involved, when it’s time to let the red dyed strawberry jam flow, never be that dude that forgot to pump the keg.