Text © Richard Gary / Indie Horror Films, 2016
Images from the Internet
My Master Satan: 3 Tales of Drug Fueled Violence
Written and directed by Dakota Bailey
71 minutes, 2016
There are generally two definitions of “underworld,” and neither of them invokes good images. One is where criminals dwell, and the other is where you go when you die. In Western culture, that usually is the place ruled by the devil (though in ancient Egypt, it was a good place run by Osiris…but I digress…). Here they are kind of simultaneous.
This is an anthology film with three dire and overlapping stories of dealers, criminals, psychopaths and drug users. The running together of the term underworld works in a similar way that the stories all meld, which is a nice touch.
Completely devoid of any kind of humor, these bleak stories rely more on realities – even with the inclusion of the voice-distorted devil, making it cringeworthy (a good thing) to watch these low-lifers react, take actions that would be shocking to most, and often talk while driving around about the motivation for their actions.
While there are three stories here, let’s be honest, who gives a fuck? They are so interconnected, one could just look at it as a series of events without compartmentalizing them into individual “tales” as much as chapters of the same book, and get the same result with the identical outcome. This is not a criticism in any way, shape or form. I actually like that it’s kind of overlapping or overflowing into each other’s messes. Also, I enjoyed that the characters not only remained the same, but kept such a good touch of a feeling of realism.
The group of drug takin’, murderin’ and socially unacceptable people are so vile, and so heinous, that it’s both hard to imagine wanting to remain in their company, yet like watching a train wreck, you’re grateful for the opportunity to do so in the safe haven of your electronic viewing equipment. There is no lead character per se, though one can’t help focus more on Alister, perhaps because he is portrayed by the writer/director, Dakota Bailey, or maybe due to that he’s the one whose name is spoken most often. Others include the despicable Bubba (Matt Marshall), Woody (Wild Willy Wakefield), Charlie (Brian Knapp) and Dealin’ Dick (Larry Bay). The one decent character is a property caretaker (well played by Chuck Frost), who looks like he could have gone either the straight and narrow way or not. The rest just seem to be born bad.
With the exception of two bad, synthetic wigs on Bubba and Woody, these guys all look and sound the part; it’s more like they’re playing themselves than characters, which is quite the compliment. Even the locales are probably more like where these people would live, on the brink of poverty and in most cases, squalor (money going to drugs rather than accommodations and Feng Shui).
As murky as is their lifestyles and living, it is matched by the visuals of the camera. Shot on VHS, it has a look more of 8mm, with mostly a dull sepia tone, scratches, visual and sound noises, and tied up in some sharp and snappingly harsh edits. It’s not always easy to make out what is happening, and the sound quality is variable (purposefully, apparently), much like real life. Oh, and just about the only time we see color, it’s in an extreme oversaturation during LSD visitations by the title character.
We watch as our little band of degenerates steal, dig up the bodies of cheating loved ones (it’s in the film description), chainsaw victims (I did say serial killers, didn’t I?), peep in on the bathing mother of one of our crew, rat each other out, and just get involved in all kinds of mischief. Well, “mischief” is a much kinder word than their actions, but all of it is believable for these characters. The only question I have is about how they almost never wear gloves during any of their actions, like these are just natural day-to-day goings-on. Then again, perhaps it is, or they are too doped up to care.
Bailey directs the film more like a fly on the wall than as a third person, bringing the viewer in on the action rather than merely viewing it. That was a nice touch, and not always easy to achieve without making it into some sort of lost footage thingy; there is no doubt that is not the direction of the camera. This reminds me a bit of early Martin Scorsese films like Mean Streets, but Bailey is no Scorsese (who else is, right?). Then again, even in his grittiest period, Scorsese’s film felt realistic, but the viewer was still removed from the action (i.e., you knew you were watching a film in the classic sense).
While there is definitely blood, most of the action occurs just outside the camera range, and yet Bailey manages to make the suddenness of it shocking. Again, this is a nicely creative touch, keeping with the realism of the setting. Also, it does for Denver what Taxi Driver did for New York City on setting a grittiness level.
As I said, the sound on the film is variable, and in certain parts, even at full blast, I had trouble making out some of the dialog. This is my one key complaint. But this sort of leads me to a quick question, that’s kind of rhetorical, but I’ll ask it anyway. The music in the film is straight-out death metal, mostly by Luciferian Insectus. Now, Bailey’s voice here sounds like he’s talking like death metal singers vocalize. Is that his natural voice, is he also a singer in a DM band, or is he channelling Alister? [Since the publishing of this review, I have been informed by the director that it is, indeed, his natural voice.]
This is a very unusual film in its content, its characters, and its medium (e.g., look, editing, sound). This makes it not necessarily an easy film to snuggle up to like a typical horror or crime drama release, but I believe that if you give it a chance, you may find yourself drawn into a story populated by unlikeable people who you may never associate with in real life (hopefully), but still respect that you have been invited into their world for just a moment.