Before my screening of Captured Hearts, director Dylan Bank did a short introduction where he tried to express just how sinisterly fucked up his film is. Being the horror fan I am, I figured I’d seen it all before, but somewhere between Santa Clause (played by Charles Durning) exposing genitalia made out of Christmas decorations and a full-out on-screen orgy, I realized Dylan wasn’t messing around with his intro. I can’t even discuss some of the tamer material out of shame, just on the off-chance that a family member reads this review. Seriously, I’m still trying to wrap my mind around this sexually perverse “torture porn” cheese-fest. Ken? Rachael? What the hell did I just watch?
In a small town, let’s say Anywhere, USA, there lives a family of sisters with their fingers on the pulse of a tiny community. These sisters, the Van Houten sisters to be exact, each have a separate profession crucial to the town, from doctors to models, putting these women on a pedestal donning them queen bees of their brainwashed hive. These women are so important that when they take their yearly vacation, the entire town shuts down. Coincidentally, whenever the Van Houtens take a vacation, five men from the town also disappear, never to return again, but no one questions the connection between the same number of males upping and leaving every year and the Van Houtens disappearing at the same time. So, is there a correlation? Of course there is! A violent, gory, sexually torturous correlation that will surely break the heart of each captured male.
Trying to define a singular genre for Captured Hearts is a wasteful task. Imagine if a MAD TV sketch had a comical three-way with a Hostel knock-off and a random Skinemax late-night watch (say Busty Cops 3?), and somehow, through the magic of modern science, these three entities gave birth to one chromosome-sharing lovechild. Audiences will be treated to gratuitous, frequent nudity, slapstick comedy involving powerful females, and Eli Roth inspired torture horror that shows unspeakable things being done to helpless victims. Dylan Bank dances a fine line between B-Movie tomfoolery, C-Movie gags, and D-Movie production, delivering a product that many viewers would expect to see grace one of the lesser-known movie channels around two in the morning.
Don’t get me wrong, Captured Hearts is an absolutely bonkers project with grand ambitions, but the frantic bouncing around doesn’t really help advance an already thin plotline. In the opening minutes of the film we’re introduced to a segment where Santa Clause, Jesus, and The Devil are all living together, and we learn it’s a movie that one of the characters is producing himself. Jesus is a stoner, Santa isn’t always so nice, religious jokes are made, but the edginess is never fun or cheeky – in fact, it’s rather schlocky. Either way, we keep cutting back and forth between the Van Houten’s bloody sexcapades and this bumbling Three’s Company combination, and it’s hard to really keep a steady grasp on the tonally shifting insanity.
Furthermore, I couldn’t buy into the atmosphere of Captured Hearts. I was like a mime pressing against an invisible wall. Trust me, I absolutely love a good psychological mindfuck of a film, and don’t shy away from zero-plot horror movies – I know how to have fun with my B-Movies.
Captured Hearts was different though. Typical descriptors like “unapologetic fun” and “brainless entertainment” can be replaced with phrases like “overbearing cheesiness,” “hopeful cult fandom,” and “uncontrolled chaos.” In attempting to make a bizarrely enjoyable bit of obscurest horror cinema, I think it’s forgotten that some of the best B-Movies of all time were made by accident.
There’s absolutely an audience for Captured Hearts out there, and those fans will no doubt gobble up this unabashedly over-the-top production. People were very excited leaving my screening at this year’s New York City Horror Film Festival, and for them, Dylan Bank orchestrated a chaotic symphony of yucky, raunchy goodness. Those fans loved the Van Houten’s ritualistic vacation, and I have no doubt more will. For that very reason I can say if the trailer interests you at all, give this flick a try. I didn’t like it, but I recognize this is an extremely niche film, and I know that niche is out there. Well, here you go – Merry/Happy [insert closest holiday here].
Captured Hearts is so niche it even went over MY head, but to those of you who enjoy the show, I say godspeed my friend, godspeed.