Dirty Movies 4.12

You know that times have changed when a movie about necrophilia hits the screens. And not just the gloomy, grungy sex theaters with their stale concessions and old videos projected on a torn screen. No, the real theaters. And not just shown, but taken seriously, reviewed in daily newspapers, attended by relatively normal people, thought about. Perversion is no longer an acquired taste. It’s a cinematic staple.

The movie in question is Kissed. It’s directed by Lynne Stopkewich, was scripted by Stopkewich with Angus Fraser from a short story called “We So Seldom Look on Love” that the director found in an erotica anthology, and which was written by Barbara Gowdy, a “hot” Canadian author. Kissed stars Molly Parker as a young loner named Sandra Larson whose childhood curiosity about dead pets leads to bizarre mourning rituals and later, as an adult, to full-blown necrophilia – sex with corpses – as an apprentice mortician.

Well, maybe “blown” isn’t the right term. If there is one significant gap in this film it’s that old “how do they do it” question. Here, we see her disrobe and dance around the corpse of a young man (always a young man), lying on a gurney or a mortician’s slab, discretely covered by a white sheet, and then she pulls the sheet aside (still discretely) and climbs on top of him and sort of hunkers down on him and what? There is that hoary old belief that men get a hard-on and ejaculate as they die, and no one, to my knowledge, has ever confirmed it – or actually even denied it, come to think about it. We may very well come and go at the same time, but why bother? Why be distracted then as the headlights come at you from the other lane, or the EKG goes flatline? What a waste of a good come. So anyway, does the corpse have a hard-on or what? Is she sticking that cold dead formaldehyde-tumescent thing into her body? We shall never know from this film. And Kissed’s ultimate cowardice is only half of its problem.

The title refers to the sense of almost religious transcendence Larson feels when she is “bonding” with these corpses. She feels that she brings a gift to the corpses that they understand. This quasi-paranormal motivation is not particularly convincing. Stopkewich took an interesting risk in presenting Larson as an island, a creature without society. We see her with only one childhood friend. We have only a mere glimpse of her normal, suburban mother. The rest of the time she is an isolate, a wanderer, a brooder on her bizarre sexual tastes. Larson does provide the narration that goes some way toward explaining her to us, but Stopkewich’s strategy ultimately fails because, by leaving her psychology up in the air, her actions lend themselves to highly negative, even crude analysis. The movie should convey – and does – the odd beauty of her sexuality, but she is susceptible to interpretations (that she is afraid of intimacy, it’s a power thing, blah blah blah) that deny the beauty.

The fact that the necrophiliac is a woman is significant, and the source of the film’s other problem. And that’s because all the men in this movie are nuts, from the Catholic zany who sweeps up the mortuary, to the head mortician himself who, we are informed in a way that is supposed to make us feel horror and shame, reserves the little boy corpses for himself. But the real weirdo – he even makes Sandra seem normal – is Matt (Peter Outerbridge), the med student semi-boyfriend she acquires in college, and to whom she instantly confesses her secret.

Until that moment, Kissed, which has a very clean and careful look and an unpredictable narrative, is fairly good, if slow. But with the intro of the mad boy, the film becomes predictable and you sit impatiently waiting for what you know is to finally – slowly – happen: that Matt, increasingly obsessed with Sandra’s sexual life, will feel unloved and want to “join” her in the only fashion she can stand. The obviousness of the film’s climax leaves Kissed, after an intriguing beginning, dead in the water.

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