At the beginning of Bazz Hancher’s ultra low budget 24 minute film Leon’s Broken Mind there’s an onscreen message that reads ‘Art mirrors the spirit of the age in which it emerges. In this case, an era of disillusionment, corruption and deception spawns a hopeless response in many. The images in this film do not reflect the mental or physical disabilities of the human race, but symbolizes (sic) the moral state of the society in which we live. The following film contains disturbing images that will shock’. After reading that my eyebrows were, understandably, raised, considering that it’s highly patronizing to believe that the viewer isn’t capable of deciding a) what the images purport to symbolize and b) whether those images are disturbing or shocking. My immediate concerns were then well and truly compounded by the fact that the film itself is little more than a try hard exercise in ‘shock’ cinema that fails to back up the statement’s grandiose claims in any way whatsoever.
The one note ‘plot’ sees Leon (Richard Robotham), a disturbed, unkempt young man, descending into murderous madness after the death of his mother leaves him grief stricken. With his mother no longer around Leon is unable to suppress the memories of the abuse he suffered at the hands of his now deceased father any longer. After renting a mysterious film containing all manner of sadistic delights, which Leon proceeds to masturbate to in a scene which conjures the image of a lonely Chat Roulette visitor, and suffering hallucinations in which his dead father urges him to kill, Leon embarks on a killing spree as ridiculous as it is contrived to cause offense. Animal cruelty (so badly faked as to render any possible revulsion obsolete), the murder of a pregnant woman and the raping of a disabled neighbour (complete with a briefly inserted shot of penetration) complete some kind of puerile checklist of supposedly taboo scenes before Leon mercifully puts himself and the viewer out of their respective miseries by topping himself in the bath. Shocking? No. Symbolic? Give me a break. As someone who grew up during the era of the Video Nasty (and we all know how tame they look in retrospect) this sort of shock for shock’s sake stuff has been done to death. I’m all for a bit of outre, avant garde, non-mainstream cinema but only when it works. When it doesn’t work, and Leon’s Broken Mind never comes close to working, it makes for a pretty painful viewing experience. There’s also the highly distasteful assumption that victims of abuse are essentially mentally ill murderers in the making to take into account, this erroneous stereotyping is lazy, crude and baseless in the extreme. The one shaft of light in this ill conceived slice of juvenile silliness is the moody, electronic score that brings to mind the sounds of many a 70s Exploitation flick.
As I’ve stated in previous reviews I’ll always doff my cap to anyone who gets it together to make a film and get it seen, whatever the budget and whatever the subject matter, but sometimes you wish they really hadn’t bothered and Leon’s Broken Mind falls into that category. Amateur actors aren’t the problem here (though they don’t help), it’s the shoddy material on offer that really disappoints. I wish the film-makers all the best for their future projects but Leon’s Broken Mind feels more like a film-making epitaph than a calling card.