Another attempt at lampooning the fifties, another indictment of crimes against innocence, namely that of all the things authority figures of the ‘50s tried to do to scare teens away from what they deemed bad, such as drugs, drink, and rock ‘n roll. Today, it looks so extreme and as new teen addict Dakota Thompson (Sally Conway) is forced to undergo electro shock therapy, even the methods of that look so sadistic, as if whomever ran that type of therapy tried to make it look righteous, but even in the deepest of hearts, they had to have just a little bit of perversity about them.
Oren Shai brings all this forward in a furious, stylish manner, drifting from color to black-and-white and back again, as Dakota, the archetypal virginal teen of the ‘50s doesn’t want to try anything that’s against her own nature, which isn’t much of a nature anyway and she’s without a doubt a product of parents who shielded her too much. Because gradually, as much as she thinks she would want to stop herself from being exposed to the “vices” and “sins” of what everyone around her does at a party, it’s impossible for her not to be at all interested, tripping that little bit of rebelliousness and curiosity. Shai moves swiftly with hard guitar chords on the soundtrack to underline Dakota’s “fall from grace”, her encounter with a psychiatrist who knows everything but has seen nothing, and her most unusual addiction. At that same party, she develops a liking toward blood. She drinks it.
Shai is well-aware of all the paranoid culture of that time, all the cautionary films shown to teens to try to turn them off to everything in the world so they’d be good little mindless automatons ready for the commerce of a faceless city, ready for office buildings with the same desks, the same receptionists, the same everything that can never be different. He twists it, stomps on it, and tears it apart with all the visual skills he has, even summing up all those ‘50s heartthrob singers with one poster and one record. Shai’s best partner in crime with this is Sally Conway, who scarily embodies a ‘50s teen, as if she had been transported here from that decade, placed in the same plain-jane room and told what she needed to do, and doing it without question.
The screaming immediacy of “Heavy Soul” characterizes who Oren Shai will continue to be as a filmmaker. When he gets people watching, he never wants to let go until they’re exhausted right after it’s over, piecing it all together and undoubtedly wanting more. He’s got it. I don’t think the ‘50s have ever been quite this extreme in any film and this is some trip.