It's a sunny winter's afternoon. A tall, muscular man (Bob Vresilovic) strolls into a pub and grabs a stool at the bar. He starts talking to the attractive brunette to his right (Tiffany Laskey) and, although their conversation is inaudible to us onlookers, they clearly hit it off. Within minutes the pair of them are driving away in the man's car still happily chattering away.
A short while later, the freshly acquainted pair arrive at her family's home, a derelict house she only visits on "special occasions". As they enter the building, she slips a blue pill - "Molly" - into his initially hesitant mouth. "It'll be fun" she assures him.
She enters the property while he falters to look over his shoulders, seeing what he assumes are neighbours - a grinning, slightly dishevelled-looking woman (Melissa Sapienza) and a heavy-set guy in a ski-mask (writer-director Nathan Hine, acting under his online pseudonym Harry Collins). They wave in his direction and, for a few seconds, he's convinced that they're both holding severed hands.
But the promise of hot sex is clearly a strong source of temptation; the man pulls himself together and follows the woman into the dimly-lit house.
Without delay, she guides him up the stairs and into her boudoir ...
KEEPSAKE is the latest offering from Hine, curator of the private Facebook group Hardgore Core (an invaluable source of all films blood-soaked from around the globe, which he oversees under his Collins alter-ego) and director of previous SGM favourites THE LAST DAYS OF LIVERMORE and THE SIDELING HILL.
Immediately it's apparent that Hine's confidence and ambition continue to grow from one production to the next. For a start, this HD presentation is his most aesthetically attractive treat to date. It has a slick visual appeal to it, is well-lit (the use of coloured hues inside the house echo both prime Argento and, at times, the joys of vintage Gothic cinema) and crisply edited. Sound design is also on point. Shot on location in Coral, Pennsylvania in February 2019, KEEPSAKE makes fine use of its handsome exteriors too.
Special mention is warranted to Will England's tightly-strung electronic score, which adds nicely to the mounting tension.
Some well-thought-out camera angles inside the house keep things visually stimulating while we're waiting for the inevitable bloodbath to arrive. Kudos to Hine and Matty Calhoun for their considered and eye-grabbing cinematography.
Performances aren't the greatest but that's not a problem: this is a short gore film (25 minutes in length) and as such it's unlikely that many will be going into it looking for the next Oscar winning actors. Besides, there's not a great deal of dialogue (indeed, we're 6 minutes into proceedings before a single word is audibly uttered) so any potential damage the odd iffy performance may have caused is successfully limited. And you'll soon forget about any latent quibbles on that front anyway, as Hine has a show-stopping sequence of prolonged nastiness lurking just around the corner ...
This brings us to the film's special effects, all of which are practical. While a strictly low budget affair, KEEPSAKE benefits from some rousingly splashy gore FX (courtesy of Hine). There are two different tones of blood used, which was a little peculiar, but nevertheless the end results are very impressive in an enjoyably 80s-throwback manner. And, without giving anything away, extremely gory during a scene that brings to mind both AUDITION and especially NEKROMANTIK 2 (England's score also has a feel of Jorg Buttgereit's homemade NEKROMANTIK scores).
Although brief to the point that the storyline qualifies as a set-piece rather than an actual plot, KEEPSAKE is a rewarding experience - it's great to follow a fledgling filmmaker and witness them steadily graduate in skills from film to film. Hine's debut THE LAST DAYS OF LIVERMORE was a promising career start, THE SIDELING HILL expanded on that and now ... it's safe to say the signs are that, with a bigger budget and more resources, he could produce something really special.
Also, it's worth pointing out that one should stick around for a post-closing titles coda which adds an unexpected but entertaining element of humour to proceedings.
KEEPSAKE was sent to SGM as a private screener link. The film looks rather spiffing in a colourful, bright widescreen presentation with pin-sharp HD visuals and clear English 2.0 soundtrack.
Though not available in any physical format to date, we will of course keep you updated on any future releases.
Review by Stuart Willis
|Directed by Nathan Hine|