Posts Tagged ‘brushing

27
Nov
19

The Happy Pill (2019): Put On A Happy Face

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a Primal Root written review

Life can become a nightmare. Work, family, relationships, daily interactions, it all begins to pile up and soon it feels as if the only escape we can find is when we shut our eyes and fade to sleep. Of course, this kind of lifestyle is enough to drive us all to the breaking point, and writer/director Kayla King’s debut short film, The Happy Pill, takes a graphic, nasty, and disturbing look into a life that is all too common for those of us struggling just to make it to the another day of pain, where we must constantly wake up from our dreams and head back into the repetitive, abusive mundane that is leading us nowhere.

 The Happy Pill tells the story of Amy Sanders (Heather Hough) dealing with deep depression who wakes up every morning to a nightmare routine. She calls her mother for help, but Mom is enjoying her vacation and can’t be bothered, she tries taking a shower, brushing her teeth vigorously, but she can’t get rid of how filthy she feels and it gets unfathomably worse when she goes to her dead end job at a vintage store, where her abusive boss, Mr. Moody (John Stevenson), a a dirty, sweaty, ass grabbing scumbag who enjoys nothing more than belittling and bad mouthing Amy. This is the routine, this is her life, and she is constantly reliving this Hell day after day.

That is, until she decides to begin taking a new over the counter medication named…The Happy Pill. We aren’t given much backstory to the medication itself, but the disconcerting effect is a compulsively grotesque smile that is constantly plastered on your face. Amy take the pills, day after life sucking day, upping the dosage each time, even as she begins to cry crimson tears, and her mouth fills with blood as she brushes her teeth. It all leads to a gore drenched, fecal matter encrusted climax and final confrontation between Amy and Mr. Moody, where the medicated Amy must decide whether she will continue to let life treat her like a piece of toilet paper, or will she take matters into her own hands and flush the shitty elements of her life straight to the sewer, and just where will that leave her?

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The Happy Pill is a ferocious, rage fueled debut. One with unique, body horror elements reminiscent of an early David Cronenberg by way of Kevin Smith and  mingling with the gnarly, schlocky, grossness and gratuitous gore and nudity of a Troma movie and comes up feeling like a companion piece to this year’s JOKER. What really sets The Happy Pill apart from so many short indie horror films I’ve seen are the fearless performances from the leads, first timer Heather Hough and veteran indie film actor, John Stevenson. Both give down and dirty, natural performances which really make the material work. And the fact that they are both up for depicting the horrors which appear in this film, especially by it’s end, make you  appreciate just how brave they are. Heather Hough owns every second of her screen time with a highly sympathetic and believable portrayal of Amy, and when she’s on screen, you cannot take your eyes off of her. Her transformation from depressed victim to violent, blood spewing avenger is damned impressive and is so fearless, it’s easy to forget this is her first time on screen. Stevenson plays the imposing Mr. Moody with an all too familiar glee and twinkle in his abusive eye. Moody enjoys abusing Amy who never fights back and does what she is told. He can touch her inappropriately, he can berate her in front of customers, he can tell her to work at HIS convenience and do it all with a chuckle and a shrug. Stevenson makes Mr. Moody a memorably despicable villain that we’ve all come across before…and you crave a comeuppance. John Stevenson deserves some great kudos for being game to bring such a monster to life.

King’s vision, brought to vivid, colorful life by cinematographer Hunter Black, who also served as editor of the film, is a perfectly timed sucker punch to the gut and feels exceedingly poignant as social issues, from mental health awareness, to the Me Too Movement, have become more prevalent ( thank goodness). The Happy Pill ends with a violent blast of pure frustration and rage at a world where so many are left behind, not cared for, unloved and made to feel worthless by those who neglect, abuse and drive their humanity into the ground under their boot heel. And this violent comeuppance, as incredible and brutal a sight to behold as it is, comes across as a battle cry of an entire sect of society left to fend for themselves with no upward mobility and no support system to fall back on.  And with the final shot, a silent, meditative, ambiguous moment, the filmmakers invite you to find you own meaning in what’s just happened. It allows you to read into the finale what you will in that final silent moment. And if, as they say, horror is simply a reflection of our society, I don’t doubt many of the viewers of The Happy Pill will feel as if they’re staring into their own eyes, as they themselves hold back the tears of rage they feel at a constant, every day life of scraping by and keeping a smile on your face while for those who make living off your hard work, while you waste your life away day by day and the previous generation goes on lavish vacations…and laughs at your struggle. 

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The Happy Pill is less than 15 minutes long, but it strikes with the force of a fucking sledge hammer. As the tagline reads, “It’s a Hard Pill to Swallow.” Well, mother fuckers, this is a dose you need to take.

I award The Happy Pill FIVE Out of FIVE Dumpster Nuggets. This short film offers something for every Trash Cinema Aficionado and will knock your ass out and shatter your senses.  Keep your eyes peeled for more from these incredible burgeoning talents out of Tallahassee, Florida.  I honestly hope this remarkable horror film inspires more independent films from the area.

Stay Trashy!

-Root

 

 




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