THE HART-BREAK KILLER
Firstly, I’d just like to say thank you to Gatorblade Films and Writer/Director, Sean Donohue for allowing me early access to an online screener of his latest Drama/Thriller feature “The Hart-Break Killer”. The Hart-Break Killer follows luckless romantic Robert Hart aka “Bobby” (played by YouTuber “Eight The Chosen One”), who’s been looking for love in all the wrong places. When a potential love interest (Xhyette Holder) becomes the latest to reject him, another side of Bobby comes to the surface and reaches out to set him onto his one true path. The film also stars Ashely Lynn Caputo (Death-Scort Service), Lexi Balestrieri (Di Di Delta Pi), and Bob Glazier (Cannibal Claus).
Gatorblade films are based out of Tampa, and Donohue himself is a longtime hardcopy film collector – something I can relate to. He’s been behind a number of the Sleazebox releases which include the likes of sorority house slasher “Di Di Delta Pi”, the holiday-themed “Cannibal Claus”, and most recently the “Death-Scort Service” films. He applies the DIY method to this brand of micro-budget filmmaking and generally gets serviceable bang for his buck. The one element that separates The Hart-Break Killer from everything else in his repertoire is that it doesn’t have the same voyeuristic sensibilities or degradation that he initially found a niche in. Despite the word “killer” appearing in the title, there is no actual killing to be found here. The film is a darkly comedic thriller of sorts where the journey is an exploration of the protagonist’s ever-changing psyche. Christopher Leto’s cinematography has come quite a ways since the aforementioned Di Di Delta Pi. This is such a crisp image, one that sees a bulk of the shots nicely framed and some well-conceived in-car footage to boot. The audio levels are the clearest I’ve heard from a Gatorblade production and the synth portion of the score is a blast. Special mention goes out to the slightly altered instrumental version of Van Halen’s infamous song “Jump”. There are also improvements to be found in the performances, with Eight more than serviceable in taking on the responsibility of two roles. Lexi is natural and lovely as Pam, and Glazier is mystifyingly normal in playing something other than a special kind of deviant (haha).
Okay, so it’s important to note that The Hart-Break Killer is a feature-length film (65 minutes) made for less than $2,000, and with that comes some issues. Truth be told, not a lot occurs for two-thirds of the films runtime, and included in that runtime are multiple therapy sessions, most of which are overly long given what little they exhibit. For all the good camera work, there are still moments where the presentation gets a bit wonky and focus issues ensue. If I’m being critical I’d say that Leto relies too heavily on the longer lens and everything feels just a little too zoomed – I’d like to have seen everything pulled back a bit. Robert’s workplace is lacking a bit of attention to detail (no screens turned on/no phones ringing etc) and the wig on Eight The Chosen One is pretty bad. Perhaps a better option would’ve been for Donohue to have the character reference a loss of hair or something. The film isn’t without the usual continuity issues, such as cell phone’s not being slid to answer calls, a home screen showing while on a call, and the fact that it looks like the afternoon when Robert supposed to be on a dinner date. He also shaves despite the fact that the facial hair he has is seemingly non-existent. The Hart-Break Killer could’ve used some re-jigging regarding Bobby’s transition and aspects of the visual representation of that. He basically goes from 1-11 without the much-needed build-up. A perfectly understandable leap if we’d witnessed such extremes in behavior prior to those moments, anyhoo. On a similar note, I think the film may have benefited from showing us the internalized conversations with Robert’s “other side” via looking into the mirror rather than face to face in isolation. Whilst I think Eight turned in a solid performance, he wasn’t helped by some of the silly creative licenses. The over exaggerated facial expressions were just awkward, the blowup doll scene was tonally jarring, and a grown man simply wouldn’t react in the hysterical manner that Robert does when getting up close and personal with a pair of breasts.
The Hart-Break Killer comes totally out of left-field given what I know about Donohue as a filmmaker. It takes Gatorblade films on the road less traveled and ends up feeling like an oddball mix of cult classic “Bad Boy Bubby” and “Who’s Watching Oliver” (minus the violence). It’s got some good camera work, sharp audio, fun synth, and better performances than in Sean’s previous films. The quick runtime and interesting direction that the story takes are certainly fresh features. Unfortunately, the film has its fair share of padding along with a number of continuity issues and lack of attention to detail (somewhat due to the micro-budget). I’d hoped for a little more world building and an alternative approach to the depiction of Robert’s mindset instead of the juvenile outbreaks that we get in replace of it. I commend Sean on trying something a little different and getting another feature under his belt, no small feat when you’re working on these kinds of funds. If you’re a budding filmmaker or a fan of DIY filmmaking you might want to take a look at this one for the learnings that are involved. You can check out the full trailer below! The film is currently available to purchase on Amazon as well as a number of other sites.
My rating for “The Hart-Break Killer” is 4/10