“Pain don’t hurt. ”
I hate to argue with the late Patrick Swayze, but I’m of the opinion that pain very much hurts, and I try to avoid it whenever possible. That said, I have a certain fascination with those who actively seek out pain, or whom have managed to conflate pain and pleasure in their mind to such an extent that they have become inseparable. Perhaps it was a childhood viewing of HELLRAISER, or just a general interest in those who experience the world different from myself. Sadomasochism is simply a foreign concept to me, and so I love reading about the motivations and pleasures that fuel it. Yes, I am a weirdo.
Ross Williams’ SELF INFLICTED isn’t particularly interested in the psychological reasons for enjoying pain. His lead character Jim (Levi Anderson) thinks of his daily routine of slamming his hand into a drawer as simply a test. His tolerance for self abuse is a muscle that needs to be regularly exercised. Jim is covered with scars and bruises, and compares his own obsession with injury to his friends’ masturbation habits. However, his masochism has ostracized him from relationships. When women discover his need for abuse, it sends them running. Will Jim ever find true love? Or, at least someone willing to beat the shit out of him on a regular basis?
While Jim’s situation is played for laughs in this 11 minute short, there’s a real sweetness to his character that makes him appealing despite his incessant need to find “clarity” through self harm. Even when he’s being particularly crude or distasteful (he rejects “cutting” as a “cry for attention”) he’s awfully good natured, and I found myself rooting for him almost despite myself.
The violence itself, while often cringe-worthy, isn’t particularly gratuitous. Much of the effect comes from seeing Jim’s bruised face and slashed knuckles, and the ever-present sound of twisting flesh and creaking bones. While the content is a little off-the-wall, it’s quite palatable thanks to the good-natured tone and the dark humor that permeates the whole thing.
It also looks terrific, thanks to some slick cinematography from Jared Cruce and Williams’ confident direction. Technical specs are solid, and while Kristopher Horton’s script is heavy on internal monologue, it provides some interesting insight into the character and his relationships. Some of the supporting performances falter a bit, but this is Levi Anderson’s show, and he’s excellent throughout.
While SELF INFLICTED didn’t provide me with all of the answers regarding the inherent pleasures of, say, burning your feet with hot coals, it’s a fun, incisive short film that makes excellent use of its brief running time. A strong lead performance and a polished look puts it in a category well above most microbudget shorts. Well worth your time, and the idea of a lonely masochist looking for love could easily be fleshed out to a full length feature.
Two Nightmares out of Five = Shocking Success
One Nightmare – No-Budget Perfection, Two Nightmares – Shocking Success, Three Nightmares – Shows Potential, Four Nightmares – Not Much Fun, Five Nightmares – Please Kill Me
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