Director: David Barker
Cast: Ella Scott Lynch, Benedict Samuel, Heather Mitchell
Watch Pimped online in the UK: Sky Cinema / NOW TV / iTunes / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / Sky Store
Pimped is a strong debut feature from writer/producer/director David Barker and will almost certainly leave its viewers wondering what else this promising talent has in store for the future.
The film opens to a scene that could be straight out of a Nicolas Winding Refn film: a house party bacchanal with dancing, sex and drugs, bathed in those most typical of horror colours, semiotic blues and reds. Fuck The Pain Away by Peaches plays at a deafening volume and sounds far more sinister than usual.
We meet Lewis (Benedict Samuel) looking somewhat out of place and overdressed in his suit with slicked back hair and a big grin. Lewis casually explains to his friend/meal ticket, trustafarian Kenneth (Robin Goldsworthy), why he should spend more money on the cocaine Lewis is pushing, dropping meaningless but intelligent-sounding phrases like “third world economics”. As a hustler, Lewis certainly has the gift of the gab, though Barker shows us its facade early on, as we watch Lewis practising introducing himself after the party. “Lewis Henry Robinson,” he repeats over and over, his face half in shadow.
On the other side of town, Sarah (Ella Scott Lynch) is reading a book in a similarly expensive house. What seems, at first, to be her twin Rachel (also played by Lynch), dressed like a teenager, urges Sarah to have a night out and indulge her libido. Due to the lack of interaction with anyone else but Sarah, it soon becomes apparent that the strangely dressed Rachel is an amalgamation of Sarah’s id and conscience, and perhaps also a version of Sarah from the past. “I’m not you,” snaps Sarah, glaring at Rachel in a bathroom mirror, as she fixes her lipstick.
These scenes of Lewis and Sarah speaking to themselves, Lewis’ reflection repeating his full name, while Rachel’s is named after Sarah’s middle name, emphasise their differences early on. Everything Lewis is and does is superficial and to benefit himself by tricking others, valuing signifiers of money and power. Sarah, while also dealing in appearances and masquerade, has a complex inner life and feels trapped within her bourgeois lifestyle, wanting more out of life. We know the two are on a crash course into each other and that the results will not be pretty.
Pimped unfurls into a compelling and disturbing horror, ostensibly a rape revenge with a twist. Lynch and Samuel play their parts pitch perfectly, with Lynch doubly worth of praise for convincingly playing both Sarah and Rachel, the doppelganger device so central to horror lore that it could be hacky or unconvincing in less talented hands. Barker should also be praised, not only for his suspenseful, twisty narrative and a script that crackles with pent-up aggression and resentment, but also for his expert, architectural cinematography that renders everyday spaces uncanny.
A particular image the director likes to revisit is the door frame of a bedroom in Richard’s house, a frame within a frame. Seen from the darkened hallway, it slowly zooms in, as if we, the viewers, are walking closer to the door. It’s a wonderful shot, quietly foreshadowing the primal key scene, which is rendered particularly perverse and disturbing. We know, as we watch Pimped, that we will have to walk down that hallway and through the door to face whatever unspeakable horror awaits.
Pimped is available on Sky Cinema. Don’t have Sky? You can also stream it on NOW TV, as part of a £11.99 Sky Cinema Month Pass subscription – with a 7-day free trial.
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