One of the pleasures of outlaw film journalism is when a seemingly cookie-cutter horror picture turns out to be a weird hybrid lurker with high ambitions. Such a movie is Medusa, the debut horror feature directed and co-written by Matthew B.C. Instead of an old castle or an abandoned university, the odd cinematic odyssey opens in England in a clearing in the woods, dotted with trailers with bright, red-lit Mario Bava-style windows shining in the night. It’s an image dripping in opioid overtones with nature and modern fixtures juxtaposed against one another. This imagery goes from symbolic to literal when the viewer realizes the film takes place in a heroin-fed prostitute encampment.
“…Carly starts dispensing vengeance on those who oppressed her…”
Carly Beacon (Megan Purvis) has returned to the camp to sell her body to support her drug habit after an attempt at staying sober. She is sent to a kinky client who is into the occult and ends up with a snake’s fangs sinking into her inner thigh. Carly starts to feel strange and begins transforming slowly into something mythic and lethal. Soon Carly starts dispensing vengeance on those who oppressed her and her sister prostitutes as she further sheds pieces of skin and humanity.
If Medusa sounds like a Frank Henenlotter-style junkie hooker version of Spider-Man, that is because, in other hands, that is what it would have been. B.C. and his co-writer Scott Jeffrey instead steer away from the salacious angles of the story to present the prostitutes as real women not defined by the profession they are forced in due to substance dependency. This representation is unusual for movies overall, but especially horror flicks. While it was first glimpsed during the groundbreaking 1980s feminist titles on the sex industry from Lizzie Borden and Rose Marie Turko, it’s been seldom seen since. In addition, the screenplay goes out of its way to avoid the sexploitation opportunities of the client scenes, which makes a lot of sense as nudity is no longer a commodity since it began being delivered by smart devices that fit in one’s pocket.
"…be prepared to have your expectations be twisted up like a headful of snakes."