REVIEW: The Theta Girl
– By Dave Dubrow
Christopher Bickel’s low-budget indie horror film THE THETA GIRL is far, far better than it has any right to be. The retro aesthetic, trippy theme, and corny special effects work in harmony, keeping you watching despite its obvious cheapness. This is the kind of movie that microbudget indie producers should be studying to up their filmmaking game.
Oh, it’s not perfect. The performances are uneven and some of the dialogue is stilted, but it overcomes these flaws with a fun story and a wink to the viewer that none of this is to be taken too seriously, even as it addresses some pretty heavy themes. Victoria Elizabeth Donofrio as Gacey, the titular Theta Girl, can’t quite pull off the necessary menace even with a casually-waved revolver, but she makes up for it with a combination of earnestness and vulnerability. Her antagonist, Bible-thumping whackjob Brother Marcus, is big and tatted-up and appropriately sociopathic, if a bit one-note.
The story, reaching back to 60’s and 70’s themes of turning on, tuning in, and dropping out, focuses on Gayce, a drug dealer who distributes Theta, the ultimate psychedelic. That it just happens to look exactly like Lemonheads is a complete coincidence and you should totally ignore that. (Or laugh at it, like I did. You’re supposed to.) Some people react well to Theta…and some don’t. The movie then concerns itself with bad trips, naked orgies, horrific murders, God, and the nature of reality. Yes, you read that right.
One character, known only as The Entity (no, not the ghost that kept raping Barbara Hershey in that 80’s movie…I hope), is so bizarre, so out there, that you want to laugh at it, but can’t, because there’s a creepy, semi-sinister element to it that keeps you disquieted. The deeper Gacey digs into the origins of the Theta drug and its ultimate purpose, the weirder and more disturbing things get.
I’ve said as much as I can without spoiling things for you, dear reader. Just know that The Theta Girl needs to be on your viewing list, if for no other reason than because the director shows off his twig and berries in a flashback, and you don’t want his personal exposure to go unnoticed. On a more serious note, it’s a fun film. Not just for a low-budget indie: it really is a fun film, so go see it and let me know what you think at The Slaughtered Bird.