HANGING HEART has never received a release in its native United States. After watching it is easy to guess the reason why. A curious mashup of the homoerotic and homophobic, it is a film so odd and disjointed that it frequently verges on migraine inducing incoherence.
|Someone is killing the cast and crew of an experimental play ....
Denny (Barry Wyatt) is the hunky young lead in an experimental play that appears to just feature men in their underpants. It seems that everyone has the hots for Denny. This includes a middle aged lawyer Elliot (Jake Henry), who rents a room to him and showers him with expensive gifts. However, despite knowing that Elliot is in love with him Denny starts a sexual relationship with one of the actresses, Cathy (Debra Robinson), at the theatre. But, as he uses the bathroom, someone in a black hood/wig strangles her. As Denny discovers her corpse, the theatre's caretaker sees him holding her body in his arms. Naturally, Denny becomes the prime suspect in Cathy's murder and is thrown in jail (where he witnesses an all male gang bang!). Much to the anger of the police and lead prosecutor, Denny is released on bail. However, soon other cast and crew at the theatre are murdered. Denny always appears to be close by and he struggles to maintain his innocence against the weight of evidence against him ...
HANGING HEART is a curious beast. It has all the recognisable elements of a thriller/slasher film, but the finished product is so fractured it almost feels that someone took a pair of scissors to the script and threw the pieces in the air. It's like watching someone else's dream. Unfortunately, like many dreams it's so jumbled and ephemeral that it's difficult to piece together and ultimately leaves little lasting impression. It seems probable that the film's decidedly off kilter approach is down to its South Korean director (who was also to blame for the story credit and screenplay). Often, this fish-out-of-water approach (think Lucio Fulci's unique take on Southern Gothic in THE BEYOND (1981)) can pay great dividends but the lack of coherence, despite the recognisable trappings, make it almost impossible to consistently connect with.
|Denny (Barry Wyatt) is confused in every possible way.
The film lingers on and seemingly celebrates male nudity, but it paradoxically appears to equate homosexuality with predation and mental illness. Although the prime suspect in the murders, Denny is an object of desire throughout. In one scene, Elliot fantasises Denny is Jesus on a cross. In another Denny dreams that Elliot attempts to give him a blow job in the shower. We later, in a flashback, see a young Denny about to be abused by his stepfather. In another scene the theatre's director, Joanne (Valerie Swift), finds Denny in drag for no discernible reason. Women, despite making up most of the victims, are painted as redemption for the young actor. And they all seem to be able to look past the fact that he's prime suspect in a series of murders! The killer's identity, despite a few red herrings, is blisteringly obvious from the offset and cements the film's dubious moralising.
Even worse, at points the film ceases to actually make any sense whatsoever. Even though he is arrested repeatedly and, at one point, ends up catatonic in a mental asylum, Denny continually gets bail. Despite missing his murder trial because of being hit by a car, he appears to walk free after a brief romantic montage! Director Lee adds even more strangeness to the pot with flashes of bad taste comedy. For some reason only known to him, Elliot's father - who is wheelchair bound and in a care home - falls victim to a series of pratfalls from rolling down a ramp and crashing into dustbins to being hit on the head with a football!
|There's always time to do your hair in an 80s slasher flick.'
It is such a confusing hodgepodge of non sequitur plotting and half baked ideas it is little wonder that the film failed to secure domestic distribution. It did, however, gain a video release in Brazil, Poland and a handful of other territories which rescued it from total obscurity.
The performances are variable, but the cast does its best to commit to the jumbled material. Neither Wyatt nor Henry have any other credits despite being the film's main two characters. Francine Lapensee gives a likeable performance as Julie, who romantically pursues Denny in the second half of the movie. She went on to appear in the slasher flick HOLLYWOOD'S NEW BLOOD (1988). Jimmy Lee has directed one more film to date, CLOSE CALL (2004).
Ultimately, HANGING HEART feels more like bad art installation than a coherent thriller. The slasher elements are fleeting, but just enough for inclusion here.
female:3 / male:2
1) Female strangled
2) Female strangled
3) Female found dead (flashback)
4) Male strangled
5) Male shot in head