FrightFest Review: GODDESS OF LOVE (2015){0}

It’s often said that “hell hath no fury like a woman scorned,” but that’s not entirely true.

A woman scorned is a dangerous prospect indeed, but – as the compelling new thriller Goddess of Love has no problem asserting – a psychotic woman scorned is a whole lot scarier. This low-key, unassuming, and quietly compelling character piece asks the viewer to ride shotgun on one fractured woman’s descent into psychological purgatory, and while this is, of course, well-traveled ground for indie filmmakers, there’s always something to be said for a familiar tale re-told by clever new storytellers.

Venus (Alexis Kendra) is a stunning beauty who shakes her wares down at the local strip joint, but seems to spy some sort of a happy ending with her hunky photographer boyfriend. Poor Brian is still reeling from the loss of his wife, but Venus is quite certain that he can get through it – but only if she’s by his side while it happens. Venus is plainly paranoid about what Brian is up to when she’s not around, and her jealous streak gradually explodes into full-bore lunacy after Brian suggests that they break up. If that’s not bad enough, it sure seems like Brian is currently fooling around with another woman — and that’s something poor Venus simply cannot deal with right now.

If it sounds as if Goddess of Love is a bit light in the plot department, that’s because the filmmakers are single-mindedly intent on filtering everything directly through the main character’s perspective. There are no subplots because Venus has a feverishly one-track mind: all she wants is Brian, and woe to anyone that Venus perceives as a roadblock to her happy ending. It’s your basic “gradual descent into madness” angle that was perfected with Taxi Driver and still entices filmmakers today. Director Jon Knautz (The Shrine) and his co-writer/leading lady Alexis Kendra (Hatchet 2) might not be the first (or 101st) to play this particular psychological mind game, but that doesn’t stop them from exploring a few fresh angles.

The biggest pitfall with a fractured character study like Goddess of Love lies within the casting department. In other words: if your lead actor stinks, your movie will probably follow suit, regardless of how impressive the other assets may be. Fortunately, Alexis Kendra is pretty damn fantastic here. Whether she’s slinking across a stage or knee-deep in horrific mental distress, Venus makes for a very compelling subject. It’s a subtle, calculated performance that never goes over the top, even when all hell is breaking loose in the character’s mind. There’s also some strong support from Woody Naismith as Brian, Monda Scott as an exotic dancer with some good advice, and Elizabeth Sandy as the woman who provides the straw that breaks Venus’ back — and lives to regret it.

Goddess of Love is not a revenge story, a slasher flick, or a simplistic campfire story about a really aggravated woman. You could take it as another “descent into madness” parable, an especially disturbing satire of romantic comedies, or perhaps as a dark metaphor about the emotional turmoil that single women deal with every day. Or all three. Despite a few familiar ideas and some third act plot exposition the film doesn’t really need, Goddess of Love is a mature, refined, and icily effective psycho-thriller.