Starburst's recent coverage of the “video nasties” era will certainly offer some context to this film, which recently screened in a World Premiere at the Fantasia International Film Festival in Montreal. Memories of the spirit of many a Saturday night were brought back for this writer when he read the article, which discussed much of the key films that defined that era of open availability. Subsequently, the enthusiasm and excitement he felt about those days came flooding back during and following this viewing.
This writer is happy to report that, despite one or two obvious flaws, Drew Barnhadt's Rondo is a delightfully perverse and extreme piece of suspense thriller that has at least three moments that place it in the realm of those immortal classics like Dressed To Kill and Tenebrae particularly that many of that generation grew up watching.
The story concerns a troubled veteran, Paul, suffering the trauma of PTSD after serving overseas. An alcoholic who is pitied by his sister, she sends him to a female therapist who suggests that he look for something to fill the void once he goes cold turkey. Surprisingly, the therapist talks of strange sexual fetishes and desires and offers him a card and a password - the 'Rondo' of the title, which has an address.
He heads to the address where he sees two other men sent under similar circumstances. All three are offered a contract and the chance to perform sexual acts on a young woman. The task seems simple enough, but while he is having a smoke break on the balcony outside the room, he witnesses a brutal act being performed within the room upon one of the other men...
Rondo is not by any means a perfectly executed work. However, what it lacks in logistics, it more than makes up for in terms of shock moments. This is actually what carried some of those vintage offerings that we would repeatedly watch over many a Saturday night. Attendees of recent Frightfests will remember the excitement generated pre-screening of two Giallo offerings, Giallo and Tulpa, which promised so much but delivered nothing but mirth. In the case of Dario Argento's Giallo, the chemistry between Adrien Brody and Emanuelle Seigner was laughed off the screen and Tulpa got it's official premiere days after the film-makers had completed the film. On the evidence presented here, after those false starts, it is pleasing to have a genuine contender for the crown.
Rondo will certainly be one of interest to the fans of Argento's filmography and there is some appeal for fans of Peckinpah and Ken Russell's Crimes of Passion in tone and intensity. The setting evokes some memories of Cronenberg's Shivers, although there isn't any sign of a sexually-charged parasite, save for the men lured into the hotel room for the acts of sexual consent.
A cult classic in the making.
RONDO / CERT: TBC / DIRECTOR: DREW BARNHARDT / SCREENPLAY: DERW BARNHARDT / STARRING: KETRICK COPELAND, REGGIE DE MORTON, GRANT BENJAMIN LIEBOWITZ, IVA NORA / RELEASE DATE: TBC