I remember wanting many pets, as a child. I’ve always been quite the animal lover, and luckily my parents indulged me with most of what I wanted; I had fish, birds, salamanders, hermit crabs, and, of course, a dog. I even had a number of snakes–perhaps the most necessary unusual pets I wanted. The only pets I didn’t have were those I probably shouldn’t have had–alligators, lions, monkeys, and jungle species galore. (Yes, when I say I’m a pet lover, I’m not kidding!) So, my parents were mostly the superego for my otherwise out-of-control, animal-loving id. I might have accumulated a small zoo, without any limits. All of this is to point out my enrichment and satisfaction as a child, making me the well-adjusted, “normal” adult that I am today (wink, wink). Thanks to mom and dad for that!
“Why,” you say, “are you talking so much about your pets from childhood (and yourself) in a movie review?” The answer is simple on the surface and convoluted below. No Pets Allowed—the latest short film from writer/director Nadine L’Esperance—is about all of the above. No, it’s not about me personally; but very certainly, it’s about me, you and anyone else, in an alternate reality…or alternate fantasy. It’s a movie metaphor in overdrive, a hyper hyperbole on steroids, darkly humorous, with exotic food for thought; it’s an avant-garde tale about brutality replacing love, with taken-for-granted joys removed and murdered. The tragic results are chronicled in a movie to remember.
No Pets Allowed begins with our young main character, Rebecca, (Nyka “Tadpole” L’Epserance) joyfully playing with various pets that are taken from her and tortured, if not killed. The juxtaposition of care she gives her pets with the fate they meet afterward, in front of her, builds immediate tension. High POV camera angles create surreal, domineering authority figures, all the more effective in being unseen by all but Rebecca. I have seen “Tadpole” L’Esperance in various videos and photos previously, and I know she is talented in many ways. However, the power of her performance in No Pets Allowed amazed me beyond my expectations. As the young Rebecca, Nyka L’Esperance is a powerhouse of expression, owning the role. Even words would fail in telling the story so well as Nyka does with her eyes alone. Her face conveys, perfectly, the deterioration of childhood innocence, ever more from scene to scene. Hurt, confusion and despair fade to apathy, with calculating coldness. Her transformation from a child with a child’s mind to a child with adult derangement is emphasized, all the more, by Nyka’s subtlety and skill in withholding. What lies beneath abused serenity is a chaos of malevolence, no less powerful in a young mind. Tadpole’s final coup de grâce is a high-caliber moment now on the Space Jockey Reviews list of evil-child favorites. Nyka’s performance kick starts the film’s chilling tone, making what follows all the more horrific.
Entering into our tale of deprived youth is the now adult Rebecca, played with enthusiasm by Samantha Mack. Rebecca, all grown up, has followed her predetermined footsteps with an occupation keeping her close to what is still the love of her life. Yes, she still loves pets, now more than ever, if not dysfunctionally, by the deviance of her soiled childhood. Rebecca is a veterinarian’s assistant, unable to pass even a single pet on the street without giving it attention, even if it makes her late. But, behind Rebecca’s façade of normality and dark secrets, lies symbolic revenge, as well as indulgence of her love for pets—one that even the word “excessive” cannot describe.Trust me! What’s better than producing your own kind, your own species, in your mind more loveable, physically as well as emotionally? Just like Rebecca, I say, “Not much!” To say more would spoil the movie. To say no more leaves you curious. 😀
And when I say Samantha Mack plays the adult Rebecca with “enthusiasm,” I mean it with enthusiasm! Mack’s energy drips from the screen in every scene, making for more than delicious viewing! Yes, “licking the screen” might be just the right metaphor here…or just the literal thing to do! I have also not seen Mack in movies before, but her performance in No Pets Allowed makes me want to see more–a lot more! She’s “normal” when she needs to be, with just the right smile to say otherwise. Mack enjoys every moment, unaware of the camera, being totally Rebecca. Yes, In No Pets Allowed, Mack delivers the all-important authenticity to make the movie believable and her character compelling; she’s also an excellent complement to Nyka’s portrayal of the young Rebecca. Here, continuity of character is portrayed, by both, and revenge in their eyes endures!
No Pets Allowed is told in artifacted, grindhouse style, complete with celluloid imperfections and age we expect, no less effective as a special effect. A pulp treat from times gone by is best done as it was before, as it is here. Nostalgia is alive and well in the mind of Rebecca, as well as it is in the mind of the viewer. The metaphor cuts deep, literally and figuratively.
As for FX blood and gore, they are exceptionally well done. It is rare that lower budget films make me say, “How’d they do that?” But, No Pets Allowed had me asking questions. In an area where lots of independent cinema flounders, this movie swims smoothly. As for hybrid transformation (yes I know you’re confused, but sorry), even Dr. Moreau would be proud. “We are not men! We are not beasts! We are things!” he said.
Nadine L’Esperance is one of the most cutting-edge directors I know, with movies as unique and alluring as her trademark blue hair and body piercings; with No Pets Allowed, she has made no exception, piercing the genre deeper.The human (and animal) condition is explored and mingled in ways that are bestial, to say the least; it’s about humans becoming animals and animals becoming humans, in the mind, if not the real world. It’s a metaphor of the mental and physical—a simile of synapses where fantasy and reality are one in a grotesque finale. Previously, I have seen and reviewed L’Esperance’s short film The Unknown Alter Ego, starring actress and Space Jockey, Lucy Luxe. There again, L’Esperance explores the nuances of the human psyche, as affected by forces beyond its control.The result, under L’Esperance’s direction, is transformative cinema, at its finest.
No Pets Allowed is a bloody-rare banquet, serving generous morsels of mayhem, topped with humor for dessert. While not taking itself too seriously, it amuses and horrifies us at once, with fantasy as much as reality. Moving to maturity, the scars of youth are intensified in a cutting climax of revenge. Medical horror may never be the same, with this operation. No Pets Allowed will put you in the doghouse, literally, exactly because you’ve been a naughty boy. So, whatever you do, be good and see the movie. All good pets are in for a treat!
Of course, “no animals were [really] harmed in the making of this movie.” As for people, I’m not sure! LOL
Look for an upcoming interview with Nadine on Space Jockey Reviews!
Finally, check out the official trailer for No Pets Allowed!