Monday, November 7, 2016

BB Movie Review - UK Horror Underground

CJ Wallis presents us with one of the most challenging and honest portrayals of psychosis and paranoia in the internet age with its hypnotic repetition of sound and sight and relevant themes of connection in a forever evolving digital society, and outstanding lead performances, BB is a provocative, transgressive yet very accessible piece of cinema

BB (2016)

Starring Jennifer Mae, Elissa Wagner and Carlos Velarde

Written & Directed by CJ Wallis

“BB is the provocative story of a girl named Leah who, under the name “Candy Cummings”, performs strip shows online from her apartment for thousands of strangers per day, never fully knowing the extent of evils that will be watching on the other side of the screen”.

Shot with a hypnotic voyeurism set to a dizzying soundscape of dark pop, BB is an unexpectedly masterful surprise, a crushing and tense thriller about sex and obsession in the modern age. So singular in style and content, it’s Spring Breakers by way of Nicolas Roeg. Unlikely to get the wide release and recognition it deserves due to its graphic content, BB is something you should all seek out.

Leah Lamont (Mae) is a confident woman. But she has money troubles, and wants to pay for the woman she loves more than anything in the world, Alina (Victoria Fox) to be able to get back home to Bucharest to see her family. So she becomes a cam girl, earning cash through online chat rooms to an audience of thousands. When Alina eventually goes to Bucharest, leaving Leah home alone and continuing with the work, Leah comes to discover that a lot of her audience are genuine, lonely guys, completely innocent. But one of them, under the pseudonym of HornyHal (Hanson) is dangerously obsessed with her. In a world so connected but disconnected, how can you ever really know how safe you are?

In his self-funded feature length directorial d├ębut, CJ Wallis presents us with one of the most challenging and honest portrayals of psychosis and paranoia in the internet age. Writing, directing, and editing, Wallis is in complete command of the entire piece. Hallucinogenic but completely coherent, he puts you right in the mindset of both our protagonist and antagonist. With the whirling kinetics of Leah, you feel the heartbreak and confusion and drug-addled desperation of a tough but compassionate and troubled young woman. 

Through the static confessional of HornyHal, layers of humanity are shown in what is not your typical stalker. Both of these individuals are isolated and alone, and are dealing with betrayal and love in very different but reflective ways. The biggest skill Wallis shows is in the pacing and structure of the whole enterprise. We know both characters inside out before anything horrible starts occurring. It’s a slow-build that moves at a whip if that makes sense. The narrative unfolds like the peeling of an onion, layer after layer revealed as the tension grows suffocating.

Jennifer Mae is a tour de force as Leah. Confident in both her sexuality and lifestyle but hiding a troubled past and her own obsessions, Leah is anything but a victim. Mae completely owns the character, natural and naked in body and soul. Hanson is equal parts sympathetic and haunting as HornyHal, only growing stronger as more shades of his character are revealed. Watching the simpatico and contrasts in the two characters really was enthralling to watch.

Many titles in horror and art house cinema are using graphic depictions of sexuality to express their themes, and also, let’s face it, to gain notoriety. But BB is one of the first to show sexuality and the expression of it as not something to be hidden away and ashamed of, but something to be proud of, something completely natural. Sexuality is the individuals to do what they wish with, whether with those that you love or to make money and bring a spark of happiness to someone lonely over the net. It is an individual choice, and one to be celebrated. Throughout BB, the filmmakers never judge Leah for her cam girl work. The fact that she attracts an obsessed stalker is not her fault. It is his. What BB does highlight is the danger of the Internet and how easy it is to get a person, wherever they may be, and how the concept of love can be perceived very differently between people.

If there were any faults, it’s that the story wraps itself up not neatly but maybe too quickly. But overall, with its hypnotic repetition of sound and sight and relevant themes of connection in a forever evolving digital society, and outstanding lead performances, BB is a provocative, transgressive yet very accessible piece of cinema. I look forward to seeing what else Willis and Mae get up to in the future.

8/10

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