Nothing beats a trip around the whipping post in Canadian punk director Becca Kozak’s short Wreck Room. Framed with X-Ray Spex playing “Oh Bondage Up Yours” in the background, we see a girl (Chloe MacLeod) grabbed off the street by a boy (Drew Forster) wearing a black leather studded jacket.
Slash cut to a fetish dungeon with the boy in his underwear on a throne and the girl in her underwear in a cage. He calls her kitty and makes her lap milk from a bowl on all fours. He then decides which leather crop to whip her with today, imagining everything he will force her to do. Lost in red-assed thought, he fails to notice the girl rising off the floor behind him with something black and shiny in her hand. There will be blood running down a stiletto heel.
I can’t think of any other director more worthy of the punk moniker than Kozak. Her dedication to the aesthetic throughout her documentaries and narrative shorts is unparalleled. In Wreck Room, she draws on two film genres closely aligned to punk, S&M videos and exploitation movies. It is easy to forget the chicken or the egg with fetish and punk, as it was punk that appropriated fetish wear that had been around for years for its fashion lane. This led to lots of day jobs for punks in the S&M world.
“…the girl rising off the floor behind him with something black and shiny…”
Here Kozak lulls her viewers into the rhythm of a spanker with an authentic look thanks to production designer Heather MacDonald. The filmmaker then turns the tables with the injection of revenge into the story, making sure the viewer understands this was not a consensual arrangement. So not only is a statement being made with the reversal of power as portrayed through leather and lashes but catharsis is achieved with the classic “who’s the bitch now” tradition of caged women flicks.
Kozak’s injection of hardcore horror with the stilettos through flesh shots is the big draw here. The jaw-dropping practical gore by special effects sorceress Deb Graffenstyne borders on perfection. The effects have the ferocious artificiality that made classic exploitation so visually dangerous. This short crystalizes the visuals of high-heel mutilation like Night of the Hunted did with scissors in the eyes. There is also a nod to Hershall Gordon Lewis in a jaunty post-credit sequence. All of this is captured with flair by crackerjack cinematographer Avia Infeid. Infeid finds the killer angles needed to heighten impact shots while busting up any claustrophobia from the single set.
It’s been three decades since academic Carol Clover suggested that revenge exploitation films had a feminist core. Wreck Room has harnessed that subtext so that all the violent visuals are rich with the symbolism of female force. There is even an opportunity taken to explore the inherent power imagery that the mighty posterior carries, a concept pioneered in the art of Franzetta. All of this is wrapped up with a pink guitar with an L7 sticker. Boy, oh boy, do I love watching Kozak’s punk videos. It looks like we are going down to the underground.
"…all the violent visuals are rich with symbolism..."