There’s nothing like a pitch black comedy to make my heart sing. Or it would. If I had a heart. I’ll start again.
There’s nothing like a pitch black comedy to stir some reverberation in the ice cold pit where my heart should be. A fairly recent addition to one of my favorite subgenres is 2019’s Blow The Man Down.
If you ain’t reeled this one in yet, you missin’ out, and I’m gonna try to be super careful about not giving any of it away. So let’s see…we’ve got a little fishing village in Maine called Easter Cove. Hmm, small town, New England–already we’re in Stephen King territory.
The Connolly sisters, Priscilla and Mary Beth, have inherited the family fish shop which is, uh, floundering in debt, and the sisters are on the hook for all of it. Matters get further complicated when a dirtbag named Gorski attempts to sexually assault Mary Beth.
She ends up killing him then arrives home covered in blood. Rather than call the police, Priscilla decides they should go back and dispose of the body. Of course. They do this with a boning knife and stow the pieces in a cooler which they dump into the ocean.
Morgan Saylor and Sophie Lowe are compelling as the sisters–Lowe in particular reminds me a bit of Sarah Hagan in Sun Choke. But the clear highlights are Gail (Annette O’Toole), Susie (June Squibb), and Enid (Margo Martindale). I love them in everything I’ve seen them in but especially Squibb in Nebraska and Would You Rather and Martindale in August Osage County and Practical Magic.
What I love most about Blow The Man Down is its fairy tale quality. Small, somewhat isolated village, check. O’Toole, Squibb, and Marceline Hugot as three Sleeping Beauty-like fairy godmothers, check. Martindale as a Dark Mother figure, check. Young heroines who have lost their mother and have to fend for themselves, check. A big bad wolf figure who gets his comeuppance, check.
Really, it’s kind of Brothers Grimm/Hans Christian Andersen meets Flannery O’Connor/Shirley Jackson. I mean, fairy tales and dark, violent, and homicidal all on their own, but now add some modern day twists on weird, secretive locals and the darker, seedier aspects of human nature. Come to think of it, let’s toss in some quirky Coen-esque neonoir into this mix as well and give it a tense, string-heavy score. Top with some mournful sea shanties.
Not so funny is the underlying human trafficking aspect, something in which the entire town is complicit. Without falling too far into the Myth/RItual Rabbit Hole, there’s a weird kind of symbolic sacrifice being made by the town. Initially it involves women in a capacity of temple prostitutes in service to the fishermen, symbolic “gods” of the sea.
Soon enough, though, we’re presented with a quasi Venus/Adonis situation that begins a well-deserved shift in the status quo, or a bringing to light the real status quo that was always there…below the surface you might say. Again, I don’t want to give anything away, so I’ll just, ahem, clam up.
BODIES- 2 onscreen, 1 off