Saturday, September 26, 2015

Jon Knautz's Goddess of Love

Cody is thrilled by the collaboration of two horror alums.

Director Jon Knautz made his feature debut with the 2007 horror/comedy Jack Brooks: Monster Slayer and followed that up with the 2010 horror film The Shrine. Now he strays away from the genre with his third film, but not too far. An erotic psychological thriller, Goddess of Love does have its share of creepy, unnerving elements.

The film stars Alexis Kendra (a.k.a. Alexis Peters of Hatchet II and Big Ass Spider!), who also produced and co-wrote the screenplay with Knautz, as Venus, a woman who is clearly dealing with mental issues from the moment we meet her. She breaks down in tears for no apparent reason, imagines bugs crawling on her, covers up their imaginary bites, and self-medicates.

Venus works as a stripper, but she's not very good at it. After a co-worker advises her not to discuss personal issues with their clients, Venus does just that with the next guy she gives a lap dance, a suave photographer named Brian (Woody Naismith). Brian says Venus resembles his late wife, and Venus is immediately smitten.

Venus and Brian embark on a relationship, but it's one which she is much more invested in than he is. He becomes distant, takes forever to reply to her texts, receives messages from his female friend Christine (Elizabeth Sandy), a person Venus becomes intensely jealous of. As Brian tries to pull away from Venus, she has a total mental breakdown. Obsessed with Brian, she starts stalking him, and we know that violence is inevitable... Especially when her suspicions are confirmed that Brian and Christine are sleeping together.

Goddess of Love earns the "erotic" tag largely from the fact that Kendra spends a substantial amount of her screen time wearing as little clothing as possible, and sometimes no clothing at all. The promise of this - and the handful of sex scenes, real and imagined - will draw in an audience for the film, but once viewers are into the movie they will also be treated to a fantastic performance delivered by the scantily clad leading lady.

With Knautz, Kendra created a starring vehicle for herself that gave her a wonderful opportunity to shine while carrying an entire film on her shoulders. She doesn't strike a false note at any point; Venus's unraveling is completely convincing.

Knautz served as his own cinematographer while Kendra handled the production design, and together they made a great looking, beautifully shot film.

The story rolls along at a good pace, with the dread and tension building up nicely to a twisted finale.

Goddess of Love may be an erotic thriller, but don't go into this one expecting your typical Skinemax fare. This is a well-crafted showcase for its director and its star, both of whom have done very impressive work here.

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