Have you ever been totally wrong about a movie when you went to watch it? I have to admit I was when it came to Tabloid Vivant. Before watching it I did a quick search on the net, I didn’t find much, just a plot outline, some funky production stills and an IMDB page with credits that included effects by Marcus Koch, (100 Tears, We Are Still Here and the American Guinea Pig films among many others). When I say that the plot involves a mysterious new way to make paintings you might see why I was thinking it was yet another retelling of H.G. Lewis’s Color Me Blood Red. In truth they really couldn’t be less alike.
Originally known as Tableau Vivant, the film tells the story of Sara Speed an aspiring art critic and Maximilien Klinkau an up and coming artist. Sarah sees him as the next big thing and a way to make herself famous. The fact she’s also having an affair with him, does not, of course, enter into it at all. They retreat to a friend’s cabin so he can demonstrate his new technique and use her as the subject of his next painting. Things go wonderfully at first, but soon there’s strange changes in both their appearance and their health. And these aren’t changes for the better, what is responsible, and what is it’s connection to the mysterious painting?
I’ve seen the film referred to as Frankenstein meets Twin Peaks which is a reasonably good description, but I’d say an R rated episode of The Twilight Zone might be a better one, and I mean that in the best possible way. The script isn’t just looking for scares, it’s more complex dealing with things like art, relationships and the price of fame. The characters are well drawn and fleshed out with Tamzin Brown and Jesse Woodrow delivering great performances in the lead. They have great chemistry together and manage to make what could have been a very embarrassing drunken sex scene throw some real heat.
The secret of just what is going on is kept up until the end and while the how isn’t fully explained it’s a satisfying twist. The coda also fittingly ironic, provoking both thoughts and grins and ending the film on a fitting note. It’s an ending Rod Serling would have been proud of. Writer/director Kyle Broom has makes his feature debut here after two shorts and assistant director credits on several films including a couple I’ve seen. He’s certainly off to a solid start, both with the script and some great camera work, (he’s worked as a cinematographer as well which may explain that). This kind of well rounded talent bodes well for his future. The film won the Audience Award for Best Feature Film at this year’s Cinema at the Edge Film Festival and it may well be just the first of many for Broom.
Tabloid Vivant is by turns witty, sexy, thought provoking and chilling. It’s one to keep an eye out for when it gets released later this year.