Many people know that the easiest type of film to make for a debut is horror; there’s a built in commercial audience for pretty much anything with a blood-bath, a strategy that works in most languages and cultures. But where to go next? Writer and director Joston Ramon Theney made a name for himself with the self-explanatory Axeman and its sequel, but once you’re started down such a gruesome road, where else is there to go?
Although it covers some pretty dark areas, Wanton Want is not a horror film, and deals with human relationships, with violence largely off the table. That’s not to say that there isn’t menace in the story of two couples melting down in a log cabin, but it’s admirable that Theney resolutely keeps the drama on a slow-burn rather than boiling over. Writer Douglas (Buffy’s Nicholas Brendon) is struggling to finish a script he’s writing; the fanciful heist movie discussed is rather at odds with the oppressive domestic situation Douglas finds himself in. His partner Veronica (Jackie Moore) is sympathetic, but their physical relationship is suffering from Douglas’s malaise. The arrival of Douglas’s over-personable friend Dan (Phillip Andree Botello) and his partner Pia (Shoshana Wilder) is intended to provide respite, but Dan’s larger-than-life presence and aggressive behaviour repel Douglas, and before you can say Jack Torrance, Douglas starts to retreat into a fantasy world…
What keeps Wanton Want interesting is that Theney keeps well away from the supernatural and slasher clichés we might expect from writers, cabins and bubbling sexual tension. Brendon gives a volcanic performance as a man who continually sells himself short in daily micro-transactions until he can’t stand it anymore. But each of the four main actors give the material a real turn of the screw, creating tension and making Wanton Want genuinely compelling at times.
As a low budget film, there are issues to resolve; the sound mixing isn’t always quite what you’d hope for, and Theney doesn’t quite stick the ending. But as a change of pace for the writer/director, Wanton Want is well worth a look for those seeking new talent; it’s a well acted and constructed piece that should appeal to those who dug Black Bear or even Martha Marcy May Marlene. That’s much better company for an up and coming director to be in than the horror field, a happy hunting ground but also a potential graveyard for up and comers.