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Theta Girl, The
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by Jay Seaver

"It is certainly a trip."
3 stars

SCREENED AT BOSTON UNDERGROUND FILM FESTIVAL XX: Psychedelic and hyper-violent are not always a great pairing, and "The Theta Girl" doesn't always find the right way to blend the two. It's got a likable title character and a decent-enough hook, but seems far more interested in quickly running up its body count rather than exploring its altered states, even though those are the memorable, unique scenes.

The altered states come from a drug named "theta", which a young woman by the name of Gayce (Victoria Elizabeth Donofrio) deals while her girlfriend Yolanda (Quinn Deogracias) and her all-girl band "Truth Foundation" play a gig. Not their gig - they basically push Coin (Cleveland Langdale) and his band off the stage) - but a lot of the folks are there for the theta, and it's a hell of a trip: It temporarily transports the consciousness of everyone taking it - including a trio of snotty missionaries (led by a guy who seems to recognize Gayce) who get a pill dissolved in their glasses of water by the annoyed bartender (Shawn Dell Corley) - to another dimension, where an otherworldly entity (Nikki Gonzalez) greets Gayce like an old friend. Either Gayce is probably not taking the Entity's apocalyptic talk seriously enough, or somebody has a really bad trip, because someone gets their intestines ripped out, and whoever did it is on their way to the band's post-show orgy. Gayce recruits her supplier Derek (Darelle D. Dove) to bring her to the guy cooking this stuff to find out how to stop what's happening - or at least get revenge.

Mostly revenge; writer David Axe and director Christopher Bickel may not get to the first kill right away, but once they do, they don't waste a lot of time. In fact, they are almost too enthusiastic - as much as having a bunch of people bunched together gives them the opportunity for a massive bloody rampage, it also thins the cast out awful quick, and what they've got for story in the back half feels a bit underdone: The filmmakers spend a lot of time on making the final confrontation something personally connected to Gayce, as if the grisly murder of a bunch of her friends wasn't quite enough, and as much as it's not bad material, it feels a bit like a side story rather than what the rest of the movie is driving towards.

Victoria Elizabeth Donofrio sells the heck out of it, though, as she does most of the movie. Gayce (which rhymes with "Stacy") may initially seem like the sort of character written with an excess of cool, a quippy drug dealer who hangs around a fringe group and without a strong Thing That She Believes In, but Donofrio never actually plays her as detached. Gayce gives a damn about the homeless guy who holds for her, her friends in the band, and Derek, and the fact that Donofrio invests Gayce with that sincerity means that nothing going on later needs some extra bit of justification. She's funny, too, and plays well off the rest of a game cast, especially Darelle D. Dove as a reluctant partner and Shane Silman, whose Brother Marcus goes from priggish to vicious upon seeing the void.

Things do get kind of rough on occasion - there was not a whole lot of money to be spent on the movie, so you can see the occasional bit where the acting isn't great or the filmmakers are clearly making do with what they've got on-hand - but a viewer can't particularly fault the film's general energy and enthusiasm. Things move quickly whenever they possibly can, and there's a strong preference for hammy and colorful over wooden and bland. They're reasonably equal-opportunity where nudity is concerned, don't spare the fake blood and guts at all, and create a few reasonably trippy sequences when the characters get high or go mad, generally hitting the spot where things feel freewheeling but usually stopping short of self-parody.

Make no mistake, "The Theta Girl" is a film that belongs at an underground film festival - it's the sort of thing that probably feels more like the people involved made it up as they went along and the best supporting characters are basically locals playing themselves rather than anyone really trying to act. It's tacky and sometimes amateurish, but often fun in a way that something professional which is just going through the motions will seldom equal.

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originally posted: 04/05/18 19:26:41
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