It's early morning, the sun rises on a small coastal beach town. A young girl still in her pajamas enters her mother's bedroom. Innocent in appearance, the child at first embraces her mother. Wielding a large butcher's knife, the daughter's affection instantly snaps into shocking aggression as she violently thrusts the blade into her mother's heart.
After stabbing her mom beyond physical recognition, the young girl takes a moment for reflection, gazing into a large mirror while wiping excess blood away from her face. She slowly travels through her spacious and beautiful dockside home. Her facial expression is puzzling. A vibrant shade of red painted on her lips, she seems enraptured with a sense of whimsy but not without trepidation. Happy, scared, and guilt ridden all at the same time. The young girl walks past the grisly aftermath of a homicidal rampage with a newly found sense of freedom, a freedom earned through the blood of her family members. But how was it that such a small girl was able to overpower her father and many others? What was the motive behind her rage?
When we finally meet the killer's accomplice, it becomes clear this isn't just another killer kid story. This is something else entirely.
Beating Hearts is the newest film from Matthew Garrett, director of Morris County and a former member of the Troma. But don't let his previous work history fool you. Although, Beating Hearts is an undeniably gruesome film bursting to the brim with horrific images, Garrett isn't interested in simply providing cheap and sensationalistic thrills. Much like Morris County, Beating Hearts' own synopsis betrays the film itself. This is deeply unsettling material, almost alienating. Pedophilia, patricide, matricide, suicide, it's almost overwhelming. Garret certainly straddles the line between provocative and pure provocation. In the end,he makes it across the tightrope act with a finely crafted and unique film that's difficult to compare to anything else.
Again, like Morris County, the key to the film's success lies within the tone. Hearts is haunting, beautiful even. With sparse dialogue, and absolutely zero exposition, this is a pure mood piece that may be challenging for some viewers. Mathew only gives the audience pieces to the puzzle, but it's up to the viewers to solve it. But don't misinterpret that statement, into an assumption that Hearts is an aggravatingly esoteric experimental film. It's a poem. A really, really fucked poem, but one that is sure to linger with the viewer. After viewing the film for the first time, it only took thirty minutes before I felt compelled to watch the screener again in search of further clues.
Although Hearts may only a 10 minute long short film, this is a considerable step forward for Garrett. Assuredly directed with a confidence lacking in many of County's scenes. Beating Hearts is strong and memorable work.
Beating Hearts will be screening with Adam Wingard's A Horrible Way to die Saturday, March 26 at Kendall Square Cinema, 7:30pm.