Written and directed by Richard Bates Jr. (Excision), ‘Trash Fire’ is a dark horror comedy sure to leave you unsettled by its ending alone. Trash Fire does bear a resemblance to Excision both films featuring a very simplistic but stylishly shot approach tending to lean on more a psychological route. Richard Bates Jr. certainly has a unique style of film direction.
Owen (Adrian Grenier) a self loathing web designer lives with his girlfriend Isabelle (Angela Trimbur) who also thinks as highly as Owen as himself. Owen attends sessions with his psychiatrist over his guilt for a fire that killed his parents and badly scarred his sister Beatrice when he was young. It’s safe to say that Owen is living a certifiable nightmare, his girlfriend isn’t interested in the slightest, his psychiatrist falls asleep in their sessions and he has no family or friends in touch.
When Isabelle becomes pregnant her wish is for Owen to reach out to his remaining family, grandmother Violet (Fionnula Flanagan) and sister Beatrice to try and bury the hatchet. Reluctantly Owen agrees although he warns Isabelle that his grandmother Violet isn’t particularly friendly, not discouraged they travel to his home town.
Isabelle soon wishes she would have listened to Owen when she discovers that Violet is unbearable. Devoted to religion it doesn’t take long before Violet’s judgemental side comes out even more so when she finds out Isabelle is pregnant and that the child will be born out of wedlock! Blasphemy!! Owen keen to apologise to his badly deformed sister has to wait until she is prepared to see him. It starts to become clear that Beatrice is confined to the house and most of the time her room, a prisoner of Violet.
The dark history of just how far Violet is prepared to go to carry out ‘God’s work’ starts to become frighteningly real.
You can empathise with Owen to a degree – he is holding the burden of the house fire and seemingly lives a life where his girlfriend only just tolerates him, he doesn’t appear to have any friends and his girlfriends friends are pretentious assholes, he is brash to say the least and some of the things he comes out with are shocking, however by the end its clear to see that he does actually care.
Trash Fire is heavily dialogue driven, almost all of the film is dialogue until a handful of scenes towards the end of the film, however Owens character is brilliant – he suffers from seizures and one he has during a sex scene with Isabelle is hilarious! This funny moment is quite the contrast from the remainder of the film. Relying on a dialogue heavy plot cast is essential and performances all round are of the highest quality - Fionnula Flanagan is a clear standout, which we have recently had the pleasure of watching in ‘Havenhurst’ playing a similarly sinister role.
It’s hard to place Trash Fire in a definitive genre, its mostly dark comedy until the last third where horror elements start to shine through, there are shocking sections – I mean we get to see a mature woman strum one out over the religion channel, and the finale is fairly gruesome – in fact the finale is a bit of a shell shock – its unexpected and leaves you with a hollow feeling.
BTG can thoroughly recommend Trash Fire, it’s another well put together stylish film from Richard Bates Jr., usually we struggle with dialogue driven films and this has been reflected in previous reviews but Trash Fire manages to hold your interest right until its fatal conclusion.