THE THETA GIRL: Psychedelic Grindhouse
I’m always on the lookout for those horror films that stretch the limits, that try to introduce something new or at least give a new twist on an old theme. I also love grindhouse, splatter gore films others may find cheesy or too low brow. There is something satisfying about the raw violence and blood, the uneven edges and gaudiness of those films. Chris Bickel’s indie film THE THETA GIRL is splatter gore with intelligence and a conscience.
THE THETA GIRL is the story of Gayce, a young drug dealer who also manages her friend Yolonda’s (Quinn Deogracias) all-girl punk band. The whole cast of this film is fantastic, but Victoria Elizabeth Donofrio, who plays Gayce, is something special. She has the look of a goth silent film-era goddess who has no qualms slaughtering anyone in her way. Gayce has found a new psychedelic drug, Theta, and she is on a mission to spread it to everyone, convinced it is the key to a higher consciousness, to evolution.
She realizes the drug can only reveal your own true nature. When Brother Marcus (Shane Silman), a local Jesus freak, and his flock get ahold of the drug, he sees it as his gateway to his own personal apocalypse. Gayce and fellow drug dealer Derek (Darrelle Dove) must hunt Marcus down as he goes on a killing spree among Gayce’s friends. Gayce has to decide if the visions she sees, and The Entity (Nikki Gonzalez) she looks to for guidance, are just hallucinations; and even if they are, does it matter?
THE THETA GIRL was filmed in my old stomping grounds of Columbia, SC, which makes it extra special for me. Director Chris Bickel knows how to make the most of a setting, shooting mostly at twilight and night. He uses headlights, street lamps and waning natural light to create an edgy transition, showing that Gayce and the other characters are continually slipping back and forth between reality and hallucination. The use of film burnout and stuttering scenes add to the effect. The hallucination scenes with The Entity are highly artistic. THE THETA GIRL achieves something not many films do: both it and its main character have a distinctive look.
David Axe’s script adds existential angst to the gore. Gayce wants to believe Theta is a doorway to a better world. She struggles with guilt and disillusionment after finding out from its creators, Mama and Papa Shogun (Len Marini and Mike Amason), that the drug is just another form of escapism. She is tormented by the realization that she has unleashed chaos on those closest to her. She has to choose which reality to live in.
The soundtrack also draws you in. The original songs are from Bickel and Joe Buck Roberts. THE THETA GIRL is currently making the rounds at different film festivals. I sincerely hope it finds a distributor and that Chris Bickel and his crew go on to make more films. I am curious to see what else he can conjure up.