A SHORT REVIEW: Painkiller

This short film comes from Jeremiah Kipp -- a writer, producer and director of over ten years who has received high praise for his short films from fans and festivals alike. More recently his film The Days God Slept was featured at HorrorHound 2014. Kipp is currently in post-production on his first feature film The Sadist starring Tom Savini.

Painkiller begins with an engaged couple who are scientists conducting genetic researching that will be used to aid cancer victims. The inspiration for their work came from watching their parents die a slow and agonizing death from cancer. The couple made a pact to find a way for other cancer victims to live out their lives pain free until a cure is found.

This research leads them to develop an organism that will feed off of human nerve impulses, intercepting the brains pain signals and in turn release endorphins. Instead of pain the host would feel joy.

Once created, the couple has no way of testing the organism since it was designed to live only inside a human being. This means no testing on animals, and the medical community won't allow an experiment on a human without initial tests. So the young woman volunteers herself.

The organism proved successful in devouring pain, but soon an unintended side-effect occurs. The host becomes addicted to the feeling of euphoria and is driven to recklessly seek out and even self-endues pain.

The films ends with the man learning that the organism can't be removed without killing his finance in the process. He must find a way to sustain her needs without inflicting life threatening injuries.

On the surface Painkiller is an interesting sci-fi story, but the longer you watch it the more it blooms into a doomy body horror shocker that will pull you along against your will.

'Doomy' you ask? Yep! It doesn't have the standard suspenseful build up to a jump scare. Painkiller is a different kind of scary. As the story unfolded I kept saying to myself, “oh no” with every twist and turn. The feeling of dread builds up to the ending where the viewer learns that there is no way out of this rabbit hole.

What makes the film work, aside from being a great story that's told very well, is that Kipp exorcises restraint. He could have easily used the woman's need for a more violent pain as an excuse to fall back on the over used conventions of “torture porn”. I get the feeling that “torture porn” isn't really Kipp's style, and would have ruined the atmosphere that he was building anyway.

Instead Kipp shied away from explicit torture and gore. This is very effective in suggesting the terrible things are happening. Less is more, and it works very well here.

Whether it was meant to be a social commentary or not, I found quite a bit in Painkiller. From how we treat our sick and dieing, to the pharmaceutical industry that promises to cure everything with a little pill, to how people seem to seek out unhealthy relationships, and of course, drug addiction.

With all that said, Painkiller was as intelligent as it is bad-ass. It's a must see, especially if you like Cronenberg. I can't wait to see more of Kipp's solid film making.

For more information about the man's films visit his website, and watch Painkiller here.


★ ★ ★ ★