Frank Edge Jr. (2009) – By Emily Intravia

Frank Edge Jr. is described as a “dark voyeuristic look into the life of a man who is falling apart mentally and physically in a rather short period of time.” Written and directed by Philip Stevens, this low budget horror feels more like a moving photo album than straight film, an atmospheric ride into hell getting you there via sound and visuals.

Told with very little dialogue, Frank Edge Jr. tells the story of its title character (Keith Miller), an unemployed sociopath apathetically eking out an existence in a dirty apartment filled with heroin and snuff film. Life gets a tad complicated with the arrival of his pregnant girlfriend, an unpleasant young woman itching for money and support Frank doesn’t seem to have nor care to give. It doesn’t take much to crack Frank’s last lingering sense of restraint, sending him down a a bloody (sometimes black and white) path of serial killing.

Dripping in ‘70s style grit and sleaze, Frank Edge Jr. is an intriguingly stylized piece of low budget cinema. While parallels to Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer can easily be drawn, this dark film works more an an exercise in mood than character study. We don’t really know anything about Frank, and neither the script nor Miller’s fairly flat performance does much to draw us inside his troubled mind. It doesn’t seem like a place we’d want to loiter in, especially when we consider the only human connection he seemed to have formed is with a shrill, one note leech practically egging him into homicide.

Character and script are not the strength of Frank Edge Jr., but this independent film remains a strangely effective film. The soundtrack (by Kevin Krier, Cameron Twomey, and Alexander Quinn) weaves a strong spell around the dizzying visuals that suggest a shared connection to the snuff VHS tapes Frank spends so much time trying to enjoy. Stevens’ camerawork is slightly limited by its low budget, but this adds a certain appropriate sense of nasty charm in achieving the kind of underground feel we imagine Frank lives in.

Clocking in just under 80 minutes, Frank Edge Jr. isn’t quite sure how to hold viewer interest for its full length. There’s no driving narrative actively leading us to a definite conclusion and for the most part, we don’t really care where Frank himself ends up. As a storyteller, Stevens could use a little more honing in connecting the audience to the action but for a uniquely nauseating trip into madness aimed at a very particular type of viewer, Frank Edge Jr. is a promising example of style over substance.

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