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The Vicious Sweet   B+

Sub Rosa Studios

Year Released: 1997
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Director: Ron Bonk
Writer: Ron Bonk
Cast: Sasha Graham, Robert Licata, Jason Wicks, Teresa Constantine, Al Marshall, Joseph Zappala.

Review by Michael Scrutchin

Sasha Graham, the star of Ron Bonk's The Vicious Sweet, is no stranger to low-budget genre films. I've seen her as a sexy vampire in Addicted to Murder and as a coked-up drug-runner in Polymorph, among her many other roles. I like her as a performer, but I've found that I'm sometimes a bit too aware that she's just "acting." In The Vicious Sweet, however, Sasha Graham slips into her character wonderfully and gives us one knockout of a performance.

B-movie scream queen Tyler Phenix (Sasha Graham) has many adoring fans, a nice boyfriend (Jason Wicks), and a steady career. But she's not truly happy, and sometimes she can be a real bitch to the people that mean the most to her. Her boyfriend Charlie proposes marriage to her, but she declines and says she doesn't love him. "You donít know anything about me," she tells him. That same day, she gets offered a role in an A-list movie under the helm of a critically acclaimed director. She turns down that opportunity down as well. And before you can say Misery, Tyler is kidnapped by an off-kilter fan and handcuffed to a bed in a dark room somewhere. The fan wants answers, and he'll force Tyler to face some painful memories that she would rather keep buried.

The Vicious Sweet is a bleak, absorbing character study that blurs the line between dreams and reality. If you're looking for routine hack 'n' slash scares, look elsewhere. Writer-director Ron Bonk has crafted a unique and intelligent thriller, one with an ever-mounting sense of tension and dread. Bonk has a few sly tricks up his sleeves as well, and he even takes a few clever stabs at the B-movie industry he works in.

Of course, calling The Vicious Sweet a "B-movie" is a bit misleading. Sure, it was shot on video with a microscopic budget -- and, well, the low-grade look is somewhat muddy -- but this one has much more heart and soul behind it than most of the independent cheapies emerging from the underground horror market. This one engages your emotions and your mind -- something most so-called B-movies never even attempt to do.

With The Vicious Sweet, Ron Bonk establishes himself as a talented filmmaker indeed. His script is smart and edgy, with believable dialogue and a main character of surprising depth. His direction is solid; he shows a knack for building tension and fear, while also interweaving dreams with reality. He only falters in a couple of scenes where the camerawork tends to distract from the drama on display.

Then there's Sasha Graham. Always fun to watch, here she really outdoes herself. Because, you see, she actually makes us care about this character who some may see as an unlikable bitch. But no. Her rough exterior is just a front for all the pain and fear that she keeps bottled up inside, and Graham hits every note just right. C'mon, somebody please give this girl an award.

The Vicious Sweet is really one of the most intelligent and moving indie horror movies I've seen in quite some time. And it's even got one hell of an ending.

Review published 06.02.2000.

Follow Michael Scrutchin on Twitter or Letterboxd.

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