GARDEN OF HEDON
Garden Of Hedon is the latest film from indie filmmaker Kevin Kangas (Fear Of Clowns). If my memory serves me correct this film was shot back in 2012 but was only officially released earlier this year. I’ve been following it throughout the entire process and was pretty keen on getting myself a copy. The trailer gave me a vibe of a stylish film/noir crossed with something like Kubrick’s “Eyes Wide Shut”. Garden Of Hedon is about a detective named Owen (played by Richard Cutting), who wakes up in a mansion with no clear memory of how he got there. He begins to search the house and discovers a young women’s body in one of the bedrooms. Eventually he finds an entertaining room where he meets Tom, a strange man (John C. Bailey) and Leon, a priest (played by Carl Stevens). Owen is told that the purpose of the house is for those who wish to partake in each of their own hedonistic desires forever. As Owen continues to search the house looking for the murderer as well as the answers to how he arrived at the house, the true meaning and purpose of the mansion begins to reveal itself. Danielle Lozeau, Beau Peregino and Andrew Ely are amongst some of the other cast members.
Albeit not a completely original idea, the premise for Garden Of Hedon is a pretty interesting one. You can see that the film draws inspiration from those classics like “Eyes Wide Shut” and “Clue”,this is a fairly dark screenplay that doesn’t contain the comedy element that other films in the genre have. One of my guilty pleasures is a film from 2003 called “Taboo” and I could see a lot of similarities here with the mansion (one location) and the cat and mouse game that several of the characters play with each other. The poster artwork is something that definitely catches your eye. That and Danielle Lozeau, a young up and coming actress, were my main reasons for purchasing a copy.
This is low-budget filmmaking so keep that in mind if you decide it’s a film that appeals to you. It’s set in primarily one location with minimal main characters and a bunch of really average secondary characters. I thought Owen recording a lot of the investigation as he navigated the house was a cool aspect. Richard Cutting is a dead ringer for a Cary Elwes/ Bill Moseley type, it sidetracked me a little if I’m being honest (haha). The opening act has a wonderful atmosphere and the entire score is really enthralling, I loved it. There is some of the old style film/noir sound effects mixed with a more suspenseful M Night Shyamalan inspired score. In my opinion that and the impressive practical blood and gore effects were the two best aspects about the film. The action is pretty scarce (blink and you might miss it on a few occasions), but we are given some stabbings, face crushing and some others that I won’t spoil for you, when their there they look cool. The look of the servant doing all the killing was an obvious nod to EWS, but none the less still very cool.
As I begin to talk about the mounting issues with Garden Of Hedon, keep in mind this is not a bad film, nothing stood out as horrible about the overall finished product it’s mostly just a lot of small things along with a few deal breakers that I can’t ignore. Lets begin with the majority of the acting. The secondary characters that are just there to fill the scene and make up the body count are pretty poor, but that’s not what bothers me, I sort of expected that. However, when two out of your three main characters deliver really underwhelming performances it’s going to make for a tough sell (pardon the pun). Danielle Lozeau as Maria turns in the only consistent and or interesting performance of the bunch. The character she plays has a lot of mystery about her which made for a few very odd but entertaining scenes. Towards the end we get some idea of her mindset and the journey she has taken. Richard Cutting is just flat and stale in my opinion. It’s a fine line between attempting to pay homage to the film/noir private dick style of character and stumbling over into something that feels so forced you can’t possibly take it serious, an ultimately this is a serious film. Those opening few scenes when he supposed to be concerned and on alert after discovering a body and that a murder has taken place were as flat as a punctured tyre. John C. Bailey wasn’t a whole lot better but I think it was more the mannerisms of the character and the tone in which he speaks that ruined it for me, not the performance.
There are constant audio issues throughout the entire film. Some of the dialogue is crystal clear, almost as though it was recorded in the studio and dubbed into the final mix. Yet other sections of dialogue are hollow and riddled with an echoing, mostly when the characters conversing are all in the same room (and that room isn’t a church…). There are a lot of lighting issues as well. I think it was supposed to set a certain mood which failed mostly because there wasn’t any real suspense generated while Owen is investigating. Some of the editing choices were a little rushed and others (the opening 2 minutes come to mind), were just bizarre and should have been completely cut and had no bearing on any of the other events in the film. The introduction literally comes back around in the last ten minutes without adding to anything we didn’t already know, it’s totally unnecessary. The camera work is pretty solid for the most part but some of the framing could have used a bit of work. I think the potential for interesting shot choices was limited because of the one location, which they were trying to pass off as endless rooms in an endless house.
Garden Of Hedon’s biggest issues are the drawn out running time of 118 minutes (geez..) and the slow pacing through the middle act. There could have been an easy 30 minutes cut off the film to keep a modest entertainment value. The mood that’s set with such an atmospheric and cool score, along with the practical effects and the nods to a good film/noir gave it hope. Unfortunately all is lost with mediocre performances, a complete lack of action, unimportant dialogue and that overall lack of entertainment you’d hope to get after reading the synopsis and looking at the poster. I tried really hard to like this but it’s hard to warrant spending 2 hours on something that only delivers for a quarter of that time. It wasn’t for me but if it seems like something you want to check out go to Kevin Kangas’s website.
My rating for “Garden Of Hedon” is 4.5/10