Bangs on a guy pushing 30 is a sure sign of psychopathy, a far better indicator than anything dreamed up in the annals of phrenology. In Bastard, he’s West, one-half of a killer duo, the other being ginger bombshell girlfriend Hannah (pictured below).
They’re Paul Bernardo / Karla Homolka types (and bickering bandmates too) on a honeymoon / musical road trip.
They’re racing along in a convertible and decide to pick up, but not to murder, teen runaways Jake and Betty, a couple escaping his abusive home life and willing to head anywhere the road takes them.
When West and Hannah’s bar gig is cancelled, all four find themselves reluctant guests at a B&B somewhere in the California mountains.
Another guest at the inn is the boozing, suicidal, cross-dressing, trigger-happy officer of the law Michael who’s just broken up with his boyfriend and is looking for piece and quiet and respite.
Not only does it feature killer newlyweds, but the excuse to put together all these disparate people, seems plausible. So far, so good.
A screenwriting tip though: don’t make everyone in your film f-ed up. It’s impossible to set up a counterweight to your sociopaths if there’s no normalcy. It also screams “indie.”
In Bastard, there’s a rude gas station attendant. Nothing out of the ordinary there as most people’s experience with these guys is that they’re taciturn at the best of times. No biggie. In the film though, the gas station attendant pushes the bounds of believability by calling Hannah a whore without any provocation, right in front of the boyfriend. This act of button-pushing made zero sense.
Even the most normal one in the bunch, Rachael the B&B proprietor, drops C-bombs on her guests. When it comes to the service industry, Bastard isn’t working for tips.
Also, clubbing someone with a sexual aid to the strains of Schubert’s Ave Maria, while surely a cinematic first, is tonally off. This isn’t a Troma production and the gimmick undermines the smarts that preceded it.
Storytelling quibbles aside, the way the hunters become the hunted is handled deftly here. And the preceding kills score big-time in terms of shock value. The practical effects and acting are pretty darn good too. And Bastard looks good — great in fact — considering the budget.
The nod to Cronenberg’s The Brood was truly out of left field. However the revelation didn’t feel legit. Bastard is ambitious, we’ll give it that.
*** (out of 5)