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DVD Review: Gothkill

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Sometimes I wonder what sort of dark, malevolent forces are at work within the already questionable realm of Do-It-Yourself Cinema. Especially when the DIY film in question has the word “Goth” in the title. Some people, such as the timid and God-fearing Christian types, will automatically associate “Goth” with “Satan.” As for me, I don’t give a shit one way or another if a title has the word “Goth” in it: I’m just as inclined to roll my eyes over the thought of pretentiously-artsy kids filming their own cheap, cheesy, dark fairy tale complete with bad acting and lousy music as I am to roll my eyes at anything that is overly Christian in nature. I think my biggest issue with DIY films with “Goth” in the title is, much like Christianity itself, everyone has their own idea about what “Goth” really is.

My second biggest qualm with DIY Cinema is when alleged filmmakers film their entire masterpiece with a video camera. Naturally, you can imagine how utterly thrilled I was to discover Gothkill was shot on video. What’s more, I found it was cheap, cheesy, and featured more than a bit of bad acting and lousy music.

And yet, for some reason, it wasn’t as utterly unwatchable as many of the other films from the DIY genre.

Written and directed by newbie JJ Connelly, Gothkill tells the story of Nick Dread (the remarkably hammy Scottish actor, Flambeaux), a one-time Catholic Priest who renounced his faith in God and pledged his allegiance to that other guy — all because the Church burned innocent people at the stakes (seems like a reasonable thing to do if you ask me). After fulfilling his contract of delivering 100,000 souls to Satan, Dread winds up being betrayed by the Devil (go figure), and is only released into our world once again when a pretentious New York City group of wannabe vampires resurrect his spirit in the body of a Goth chick. A lot of killing and sardonic dialogue ensue. Anybody looking for more than that should probably know better.

Wild Eye Releasing brings Gothkill to DVD in a “Satanic Special Edition,“ boasting a non-anamorphic widescreen transfer. Since it was shot on video, it looks pretty clear, and naturally suffers some grain in the darker scenes. The stereo sound comes through fine, although the soundtrack is a little over-modulated at times (it’s DIY Cinema, folks) and the music on the Main Menu will blast you out of the room if you don’t turn the volume waaayyyy down first. Special features include a video commentary with writer/director Connelly, and actors Flambeaux and Eve Blackwater; a Q&A from a New York City screening; some stills and trailers; and a “Live Performance Chronicle” (behind-the-scenes).

OK, so the Bottom Line here: Gothkill is a very silly, very low budget shot-on-video flick. But, in-between the often dreadful acting, deficient special effects and nerve-wracking soundtrack, there’s a certain wit to the writing that makes it worthwhile. Well, for people that like DIY movies with the word “Goth” in the titles, at least.

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About Luigi Bastardo

Luigi Bastardo is the disgruntled alter-ego of a thirtysomething lad from Northern California who has watched so many weird movies since the tender age of 3 that a conventional life is out of the question. He currently lives in Chico, CA with four cats named Groucho, Harpo, Chico, and Margaret. Seriously.
  • As an actual participant in the making of this movie, I had an insider’s view of the much of the entire filming process, and can shed some light upon the reasons why this movie is so disappointing.
    To start with, let us start with the casting and crew selection. Many of the actors came in as friends of either the casting director – Anastacia Andino, the main star – Flambeaux, or from one of the other affiliated producers. The production team came in from a Craigslist ad, and therefore there was little chemistry from the start.
    JJ Connelly grew frustrated with many members of the first production crew, and therefore fired them all after a few days shooting. In particular, he was most annoyed by a fellow whose name was I believe Spencer or something. He played the priest who struck the witch coming from meeting with Flambeaux’s character on Riker’s Island. This Spencer fellow was also in charge of some of the props, and perhaps even had a title of set design or art director. Anyway, when a ‘Hell’ scene was being shot, his so-called fire-resistant curtains proved less than satisfactory for the purpose, and there was a smoke-out in the studio, and the producers had to foot the bill for damages.
    Next came the shoot up in Woodstock NY. We spent the weekend at the house of Vlad and Skye Claudette, who are also characters in the film/video. It was known at all times that we were shooting entirely in digital, and those of us with any understanding of the current technology were completely aware of the shortcomings of the digital medium at the time- those being bad resolution and practically useless at low-light, when we did much filming. I had mentioned this on numerous occasions to the Director of Photography and JJ himself. Of course my words fell on deaf ears. On with the show! Also I mentioned to JJ that the script left something to be desired- that there was little background for the characters, nor was there any character development, plot, conflict, emotional content, dynamism, etc, basically the film was lacking in every category imaginable for a movie to be watched with interest. Nor did it qualify as some sort of abstract art film ala Bunuel or Godard. It was shallow, vapid, trite, and simplistic, with just a few decent whip/torture scenes, fight scenes, and some good makeup and costumes. Unfortunately the digital video cameras did nothing to capitalize on the personal expression of these professional goths nor their distinct and unique personalities. It was as if JJ Connelly were simply fulfilling some puerile fantasy of getting a bunch of scantily clad goth girls rolling all over each other in Hell, and Flambeaux to play the role of Dungeon Master. The actual quality of the production was second tier, JJ’s personal satisfaction with the process was #1. Therefore he had a conflict with me, and with a few others who poked at the holes in the script and plot.
    During the whole production I had snapped a number of still photos with my Nikon 35mm camera and many of them came out quite well. JJ wasn’t interested in using them for posters or cover art, so they got scrapped, many never were even retrieved from the film lab simply for the lack of enthusiasm and financial support exhibited by JJ, but those photos in a slideshow would probably have been a bit more impressive, interesting, and revealing of the characters and costumes of the authentic goth cast, than his entire video production.
    BTW JJ never gave me credit for my role as the ‘Blue Haired Freak’ (who’s murder at the club is one of the most amusing parts of the entire movie) nor as an extra, production assistant, etc. so my only reward were a few interesting pics, $100 pay, and a taste of schadenfreude for the abject failure of this movie in the tyrannical hands of JJ Connelly.