By DAKOTA DAHL
Starring Nicole D’Angelo, Chris Spinelli and Shane Ryan
Written By Nicole D’Angelo, Chris Spinelli and Gregory Hatanaka
Directed by Gregory Hatanaka
CineRidge Entertainment/Cinema Epoch
If I wasn’t an underpaid horror culture correspondent, I would be an underpaid armchair detective. I honestly love a good mystery, both real world and fictional. There’s something about an expertly crafted tale with a cast of suspects, a heinous crime, and more red herrings than a Shuba Salad. HEARTBEAT gives audiences none of that, with the only riddle worth solving being “should I stop watching and put on something good?” The real crime is your stolen time, and the real victim is cinema, who was beaten to death so thoroughly it began to resemble to aforementioned Shuba Salad.
The film is barely about a string of murders, where a set of POV leather hands stalk people and choke them to death, which miraculously results in them bleeding like a psychic’s nose. Apparently all the victims are related to a story published by journalist Jennifer (Nicole D’Angelo, Acrylic, Quarantine Girl) where she outed a corrupt organization or something? It was a little garbled in the noise of the film, which introduces pale stereotypes of people just for a goofy voiced killer to walk up to them and murder them, where they are less invested in self preservation and more interested in breaking the fourth wall to give a death warble. Seriously, as the bodies pile up, it never occurs to a single character to stop meeting people in secluded areas.
The film is also incredible trope heavy. Every time a knife is used, it switches to clack and white, just to mimic Psycho for a brief instant. The killer had a weird, almost supernatural voice, which only reminds you that you could be watching Black Christmas instead. There are ominous phone calls, bizarre freeze frames, a few Ken Burns for reasons that make sense to director Gregory Hatanaka alone, and flat jump scares aplenty.
The list of suspects is insultingly varied, with the extremely twitchy amateur photographer who keeps babbling about a conspiracy seeming like a contender, but wait, the shifty cop who doesn’t seem to ever be doing any actual police work might also be the bad guy! Any other suspects get introduced and murdered so quickly, it feels more like a carnival shooting gallery introducing a series of insulting, two dimensional ducks than a row of possible killers. This is less a whodunnit and more a who-fucking-cares? The friction from Columbo’s spinning corpse is going to cause the heat death of the universe.
I usually feel bad about picking apart an indie film, because you can at least sense that people were committed to making something that just didn’t come together, or one small aspect failed and soured the film. This isn’t the case with HEARTBEAT, where every single person attached to the film seems hell bent on phoning it in. The plot meanders, with the script clearly never having been edited by anyone outside of a series of nodding bobble heads. The directing apes other, better films with such frantic intensity that it seems like a first-year film student endeavor. Actors are either mumbling their lines into a paper cup or over-emoting like they just shot the adrenaline of the Tasmanian Devil straight into their eyes.
I can’t go after this film with the kid gloves, since I think it would be unfair to my three readers (hi mom) for me to be THAT artistically dishonest. This film is an insult to other filmmakers who actually tried to do something intelligent, heartfelt or thorough. There are people trying to make their cinema dreams happen, and failing, but somehow this film still got made, with an actual budget. This wasn’t a risk that didn’t pay off, there was no way anyone attached to this project thought it would be good, they just thought they might make some money.
To learn how to not make a good mystery (or film in general) HEARTBEAT is currently on Vimeo on demand. It will be taking up server space on other streaming services in a few months