A lesbian couple in the throes of a fraught break-up visit a therapist at the insistence of one of the pair who is desperate to convince the other not to walk out of their shared home. It’s the opening gambit for an indie art-house movie that evolves into something very different from the everyday relationship flick.
The counselling session is an intimate setting, where explosive emotional truths can be exposed in the interaction between patient and analyst. The opening act of Horror At Gallery Kay establishes the dynamic between the three characters (who are pretty much the film’s entire cast) and sets out a context in which such hidden secrets can emerge. It gives no hint of the direction in which the film is ultimately headed.
The power balance between the two lovers appears to be decidedly uneven. The fragile and vulnerable Olive (Rosebud), is pleading with her lover not to dump her. Petra (Maine Anders) is far less committed, wants more excitement, and appears to be far more psychologically self-sufficient. Olive is hoping to win an ally to her cause, but to her disappointment therapist Claremont Bozill (Brian Silliman) insists his role is to clarify the realities of their relationship, and not to save it.
Shot in black and white (with colour reserved for flashbacks), and staged in a strongly theatrical style, it’s an effective and well-structured opening delivered through some polished performances. Silliman has the best role, and he’s excellent in it; particularly as he establishes and enforces the “ground rules” of his therapy room. But when Petra recounts a bizarre personal experience that she’s told at numerous storytelling events (of commuters apparently slipping into a parallel world through a hidden doorway) things quickly shift gear and the film becomes something else entirely.
Without giving away any more of the plot, suffice to say that the story relocates to the titular gallery where a short series of (unexpectedly gory) horrors unfold, and the power dynamic between characters shifts irrevocably.
There can be a fine line between the profound and the pretentious in the work of art-house auteurs, and the insights of Horror At Gallery Kay certainly teeter on the very edge of that border. It’s arguable that the film’s central dramatic conceit is a metaphor for something to do with the surface and the subterranean in the human condition, but it’s not completely clear what that message might be.
That said, this remains an inventive, genre-bending story that’s well-acted and very competently directed. While the film’s split personality (part In Treatment, part They Live) will limit its appeal, if you’re willing to take an experimental punt you can pretty much guarantee that you’ll rarely, if ever, have seen anything quite like it.
HORROR AT GALLERY KAY / WRITER: MAC ROGERS / DIRECTOR: ABE GOLDFARB / CAST: MAINE ANDERS, ROSEBUD, BRIAN SILLIMAN, KRISTEN VAUGHAN / CERT: TBC / RELEASE DATE: TBC