Dave Wain’s essential breakdown of this week’s cavalcade of straight-to-disc treats. Step inside the DTV Junkyard…

What did I just watch?! Normally, when I’m pre-ordering the following months DTV titles, I tend to have an inbuilt quality control sensor that has a canny knack of filtering out the dirge. Granted, there will always be a couple that sneak through the razor wire, but I don’t think anything quite like THE PET has ever managed to creep into this Junkyard column.

I think it was down to my giddy happiness with the first few titles that veteran US label TriCoast released into the UK market; they came armed with a really impressive slate, from Bernard Rose’s latest Tolstoy adaptation, 2 Jacks, to the very worthwhile Treasure of the Black Jaguar. With the announcement of the cautiously awaited Toolbox Murders 2 as well, I figured I should go all in to support this newbie. That was until this week…

The Pet is labelled as a SHOCKING DRAMATIZATION; shocking is right, especially in the absence of any discernible quality. It follows a young woman, Mary (Andrea Edmondson), who after the death of her beloved pussy, coupled with extortionate vet fees and an eviction notice, finds herself in a desperate financial situation. A chance encounter though with a mysterious stranger from Liechtenstein (!) presents itself as a possible remedy to her woes. She agrees, for a considerable sum of money, to become his human pet; to sleep in a cage, to never wear clothes, and to be dragged around on a leash for a period of six months. What begins as a frivolous endeavour for both parties, soon develops into something far more sinister, as this aristocratic benefactor dabbles in the Global Slave Market.

From its flute led opening score that’s reminiscent of top shelf early-nineties softcore, it’s a relentless orgy of unintended hysteria. It peaks early on, just as our two leads dine over a pint of Guinness and a Shepherd’s Pie in an Irish bar in Los Angeles (no, I’m not making this up). Despite meeting only a matter of minutes ago, our kinky Liechtensteiner, Philip (Pierre Dulat), whips out a cheque for $10,000, while the subservient Mary asks “would you rather I sat on the floor and ate?”. THEY’RE IN A PUB! Mind you, for ten grand I’d quite happily sit on the beer-soaked carpet of the Three Stags and let a stranger spoon feed me Summer Pudding.

The smell of all this cash sees Mary quite happily adopt the role of Philip’s pet. “But why do I have to be naked?” she asks, “Pet’s don’t wear clothes”, Philip solemnly replies [Dave guffaws uncontrollably in his chair]. It is a hoot from start to finish, although if you’ve shelled out ten quid in the hope of getting a serious piece of commentary on the worldwide sex trade, you may well be disappointed.

Weirdly, the back of the box blurb informs us that ‘we are proud to announce the reissue of this out of print cult classic with three minutes of never before seen footage included’. Slight factual inaccuracy there in that it’s only OOP in the USA, as since its creation in 2006, it’s never received a UK release. The three minutes of extra footage is a clunkily shoehorned-in segment just prior to the end credits entitled ‘The Girls of the Pet’; basically a couple of shoddy outtakes, passed off as a director’s cut. Picture quality is pretty shoddy throughout too, with its appearance akin to some shot-on-video DTV effort from the very early noughties.

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SPEAK NO EVIL screamed generic at me this week, but I’m happy to say that I really did enjoy it. When Anna’s (Gabrielle Stone) daughter Joey (Olivia Cavender) goes missing, it’s assumed to be the result of bad parenting. However, when every child in the town disappears soon after, dark forces are suspected and the locals are thrown into hysteria. When the children finally return, panic escalates as they begin to show signs of demonic possession. Forced into a violent campaign against their own offspring, the townspeople embark on a bloody rampage, but Anna refuses to believe her daughter is lost, and will do anything it takes to save her from the devil.

Who doesn’t love horror films with evil kids? From The Omen to Who Can Kill a Child?, for me they’ll always send a shiver down the spine; while Speak No Evil is firmly down the pecking order in this moreish sub-genre, it did remind me a little of Adrian Garcia Bogliano’s superb Here Comes the Devil from 2012, owing to its moments  of unerring freakiness. The narrative is the films weakest part; at times it loses you in needlessly convoluted exposition, but with relentlessly chilling visuals and a hypnotising style about it, it’s a briskly paced little screamer that deserves a pick-up.

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Ate de Jong made Highway to Hell! What an uber-cool movie that is. Patrick Bergin! Chad Lowe! Pamela Gidley! Ben and Jerry Stiller! It’s written by Brian Helgeland (L.A Confidential, Man on Fire) as well! I digress, but the new de Jong film seems like the perfect opportunity to divert some love over to such a classic. His new movie, DEADLY VIRTUES, is a tale of secrets and intimacy that’s set in Watford. Granted, not exactly a pitch that would see queues outside the multiplex, but bear with me, for this is actually the surprise of the week.

Tom (Matt Barber) and Alison (Megan Maczko)are a married couple about to settle down for a steamy night of sex when Aaron (Edward Akrout) breaks into their house and assaults them. When they come to, they find they are both bound and helpless. Tom is left tied up in the bath, while Alison is hung from the ceiling in the kitchen. As events progress and Aaron’s actions grow increasingly violent and dangerous, this corner of middle-class subtopia is about to yield some eye-opening revelations.

When Aaron initially breaks in to this couple home, creeping about undetected before settling upon Alison’s drawer of sex toys – taking a taste test of one of her dildo’s – an exploitative low-rent sleaze-fest seems likely; surprisingly though, we get depth, insight, morality and excellent performances in the eighty minutes or so that follow. Deadly Virtues is an excellent examination of the machinations at work behind the façade of a happy couple. The fractured reality of this middle-class pairing makes for disturbingly addictive viewing, while we get an unremitting glimpse behind the velour curtains of suburbia. It’s stylish, intriguing, and for a three-hander its pace rarely drops thanks to Mark Rogers tightly constructed script. A deserved round of applause from DTV Junkyard.

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