BY: DAKOTA DAHL
Starring: Jackie Kelly, Ryan Watson and Victor Hollingsworth
Directed by: Jeff Wedding
Written by: Ray Russel (story) and Jeff Wedding (screenplay)
When I saw the trailer for Tennessee Gothic, I found it had a sort of idiot charm. I was expecting a low budget mash up of THE KENTUCKY FRIED MOVIE and TROMEO + JULIET. What I got instead was an hour and a half long rape joke with a three-minute supernatural subplot. The film centers around Sylvia (Jackie Kelly, IN MEMORY OF), who escapes some backwoods abusers before being rescued by a father and son team(William Ryan Watson and Victor Hollingsworth, respectively.). She begins to stay at their house and help out at the farm but then suddenly begins a sexual triangle between them and the local priest (I guess that makes it a square instead.) She gets hunted by her original attacker, and everyone that has sex with her begins to wither and die. Pretty basic stuff.
I’m next to certain that the source material, written by the Ray Rusell (MR. SARDONICUS, X: THE MAN WITH THE X-RAY EYES) wasn’t so overtly offensive while also painfully uninteresting. I think the elements that make this film fall apart lie solely on the shoulders of the screenplay writer and the director, Jeff Wedding (A MEASURE OF THE SIN.)
“Yes, the film simultaneously reduces a woman to a slave wife and a farm animal in one go.”
It takes a special kind of hatred of women to have a female character who has next to zero agency yet still be portrayed as the villain. She is sexually assaulted within the first five minutes of the story, but the man doing it is somehow later portrayed as one of her victims, which is a serious bit of moral gymnastics. The only bit of self determination she seems to have, which is her sexual proclivity, is later offered up as a bargaining chip by one of her “rescuers” thereby robbing her of any say in her life.
There’s a scene where she is being forcibly married off to one of her sexual partners (despite showing no interest in marriage at all) and the best way to figure out who gets to keep her is to play a game of “greased pig.” Of course, there are no pigs due to the farm having fallen into disarray because the two farmhands have been too busy fucking her to tend to their chores. So the next logical step is to grease her up instead. Yes, the film simultaneously reduces a woman to a slave wife and a farm animal in one go.
Rampant misogyny aside (but should I really even need to put it aside?) the film markets itself as a horror comedy but has neither frights nor laughs. The most potent jokes, of which there are maybe three, are all featured in the trailer, unless you consider multiple montages of a woman having three partners a punchline. The scares don’t exist, with any murders occurring blandly and almost out of frame. The big reveal of a demon has zero impact, partially due to the bad plot and worse makeup, but more to do with the fact that the monster is featured on the poster for the movie.
Maybe I’m just a delicate city mouse that doesn’t get the appeal, so if nudity and accents sound like all the ingredients you need to make a good film, have at ‘er. Tennessee Gothic is available now on VOD, DVD and Blu-Ray.