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New Release Review (VOD) - BEYOND THE BRIDGE

During a drug trip, a young woman is haunted by the ghosts of her past.





Review by Benjamin Poole (@filmclubchs)

Directed by: Daniel P Schenk

Starring: Maya Schenk, Thomas Koch, Eleanor Buechler



Watching Beyond the Bridge is much akin to experiencing a drug trip: it has its moments that startle and astound, reality is bent and presented in a manner that is off key and weird; but after a while it all gets a bit repetitive and exhausting, and you may find yourself needing a nice cup of tea, blanket and hug from your mum.

Beyond the Bridge can be rented or purchased at beyondthebridgemovie.com


Fear, recrimination and monsters have always existed, both in real life and artificial representation. However, if we were to pin point the exact genesis of horror, the genre which concentrates these features into a recognised mode of entertainment, we should probably begin in Switzerland circa the early 19th century. Specifically in a Cologny mansion upon Lake Geneva, where a group of prodigiously talented writers and their various hangers on essentially fashioned what we understand as modern horror. Lord Byron, Shelleys Percy and Mary, Polidori (Byron’s physician) et al gathered together in this palatial holiday home upon a (then fresh from cliché) stormy, candle lit evening, inventing spooky stories to pass the time. From that fateful holiday, we reaped both Frankenstein and Dracula (the latter indirectly, as a clear descendant of Polidori’s Vampyre), tales that utilise intense sensations of shock and mortification, expending the abject in order to explore ideas and themes that pertain to the human condition. In doing so, the poets newly minted the horror genre from the raw scoria of ghost stories (Byron was a fan of the Fantasmagoriana), Romantic inspiration and the seemingly supernatural potential of modern science. And a little extra: the Romantic poets were suckers for laudanum, an opiate derived analgesic that was freely available in Georgian Britain. It’s no wonder that Byron made sure his doctor travelled with him: this rusty powder induced euphoria and seemed to loosen inhibition, two abiding Romantic interests. It is probable that laudanum, which, accordingly, brought dreams a little closer and invigorates the senses, was in use in the Villa Deodati in the ‘wet, ungenial’ summer of 1816, distorting the shadows of the imagination. All of which is to say, in a roundabout way, that drugs and horror would historically seem to have had a cooperative, auspicious relationship (a dichotomy compounded by the eventuality of each pursuit; opiate addiction, like horror, usually involves death).


The representation of controlled substances in horror is minimal, but significant, with intoxicants usually demonised as a conduit for evil; think Jack’s alcoholism in The Shining allowing the Overlook full psychological reign, or the well-meaning silliness of midnight fodder such as ‘Shrooms. Like the unfairly overlooked Lovely Molly, another film that conflates drug hysteria and female psychology, patchy Euro-horror Beyond the Bridge bases its scares around an Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland dynamic (Carroll’s novel was notably written just a few decades after the seminal events at Deodati), with art student Marla (our Alice figure, played by an intriguing Maya Schenk) returning to the homestead following her parents' death. In the midst of her grief, Marla hooks up with some old pals, who introduce her to the drug ‘pentagol’. Typical story; a party, it was being passed around, everyone was doing it, etc, but perhaps Marla should have just said no, because a few moments' bad trip leads to a feature length hangover, with repressed ghosts of the past returning to Marla, haunting her on the heels of her rabbit hole experience. We follow Marla as she deals with the ensuing comedown of repressed memories, jealous boyfriends and her own teetering delirium.


The experience of watching Beyond the Bridge is (I would imagine), much akin to experiencing a drug trip: it has its moments that startle and astound, reality is bent and presented in a manner that is off key and weird; but after a while it all gets a bit repetitive and exhausting, and you may find yourself needing a nice cup of tea, blanket and hug from your mum. Film maker Daniel P. Schenk (brother to star Maya - isn’t that lovely?) clearly has chops and is enamoured by the boy’s train set of film making: the film’s meagre budget goes a long way with creative camera work and slick editing, but the narrative features too many scenes that detract from the impact and really should have been cut. At almost two hours plus, this VOD film certainly gives value for money, but is far too long. We see poor Marla throwing up in the toilet so often that I thought there was a glitch on my screener, and there are other extraneous moments, like the a scene where Marla sets up a (tame) BDSM photo shoot with her fella, which, if you’re into that sort of thing, is a Brucie bonus, but is nonetheless rather hard to reconcile to the plot.


About that plot… The hallucinatory scenes range from inventively creepy, to balls to the wall insane - this is certainly the only film I’ve seen this year depicting a befuddled heroine opening a door to reveal a room properly on fire, where, in the middle of the blaze, an attractive women is having it off with some (possibly dead?) guy, while a zombie child sits and watches, clutching a teddy bear amidst the flames. High times, indeed. But when the story’s arc eventually discloses that pentagol is a drug also used to induce abortions, and the iconography of teddy bears, babies’ cries and haunted tweens upsettingly coalesces, I did find the denouement deeply unpleasant and slightly distasteful.

A director’s cut would increase the potency of this trip, but, as it stands, there’s a lot of water washing about under this bridge.



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