Screamfest kicked off its 14th annual horror film festival with the world premiere of Parlor, a gruesome slasher set in Lithuania from writing and directing duo Kenny Gage and Devon Downs and the producers of girl-fight sensation Raze.
Parlor stars genre bad boy Robert Lasardo as an international tattoo artist with an unsavory side business of creating unique portraits on human skin. Known as “The Artist,” he has no trouble finding new canvases as American tourists are plentiful and looking to make their trip memorable with culturally relevant ink.
Finnish model/actress and real-life tattoo artist Sara Fabel plays “The Artist’s” apprentice Uta, a tall and temperamental, drop-dead sexy blonde with a voracious appetite for sex and murder. Uta lures tourists to the parlor where “The Artist” does his work with the promise of quality tats and/or mind-blowing sex.
Uta meets American college kids Amy and Brock, played by Tiffany DeMarco and Ben Whalen, at a mansion party and invites them to return to the parlor where she lives with “The Artist.” With Amy looking to get her first tattoo and Brock on a mission to get laid, the friends accept Uta’s offer.
When Amy awakes from a drug-induced slumber, she discovers that things have taken a terrible turn. She and Brock are strapped to operating slabs, and Brock is having the skin of his back peeled off by “The Artist.” The scene is lengthy and extremely gruesome, unrelenting and cringe-worthy—in other words, awesome!
Makeup and gore effects are topnotch, believably gross and revolting. Lasardo is on point in what could very well be his most sinister role to date. What makes “The Artist” so frightening is his eerie calm and detachment. He’s an artist at work, concentrating on the task at hand.
Uta, by contrast, is a ball of emotion… okay, a wrecking ball of hate and anger. She only gets more worked up when “The Artist” takes a strong liking to Amy, coming to her rescue when Uta attempts to yank her teeth out. It’s a devilish funny scene in which “The Artist” comforts Amy by saying, “It’s okay, Amy, it’s me” with a complete lack of irony.
Amy and Brock have friends with whom they are vacationing with. Those friends notice their absence and set out to find them. It’s a bad idea, and one that triggers an intense string of unfortunate events. Most heartbreaking of all are the fates of Claire Garvey’s Kelly and gorgeous nude model Beth Humphreys’ Stephanie.
Kelly is a saucy little thing, ready to do what it takes to protect her friends. She finds Amy, who tells her “They’re skinning people… it’s so fucked” in her most valley girl drawl. It’s the best line in the entire movie, and I do believe it was intentionally understated and funny. As brutal as Parlor is, it is also very humorous in a wonderfully fucked up way.
But, back to the film’s saddest scenes. Kelly gets the jump on Uta and attempts to unlock Amy from her restraints to no avail. With Amy’s urging, she flees for help. That leads to a short, but thrilling, cat-and-mouse chase that leads to an unfortunate dead end. Stephanie experiences a similar torment to Brock’s, and it’s depressing because she has enormous breasts that she bared on screen during a more uplifting scenario.
Clever, funny, disturbingly gory, and chockful of gratuitous and beautiful nudity, Parlor is an absolute treat for horror fans.
Kenny Gage & Devon Downs