Sculpture desperately wants you to chow down on a slab of gory, over-the-top camp. Unfortunately it tosses in a side of icky child abuse which gives the overall meal a bitter aftertaste. For much of its running length, the film is exactly what it aspires to be. The fact that it isn't better is largely a function of its limited scope and ambition rather than its execution.
Ashley (Raine Brown) has just come back home for her father's funeral. She isn't terribly broken up about it because her dad, Frank (Marv Blauvelt), was a sadistic and abusive brute. Fifteen years ago he caught his wife painting the image of a nude male model. He flew into such a rage that he killed the model and mercilessly beat his wife while Ashley watched on in horror. If you need further evidence of his depravity, we are also given brief glimpses of the many times he entered his daughter's room at night and forced himself on her. It goes without saying that Ashley has grown up a little bit...damaged. The full extent of this is about to become abundantly clear to everyone around her, especially her older brother Adam (Dustin Kerns).
Settling back into a life she abandoned many years ago, Ashley takes up Adam's offer to work at his gym and moves back into the family home. An artist in her own right, she latches onto the idea of creating a piece of art for a local exhibition and gets to work in her mother's studio. Soon Adam's oddly possessive nature returns her to the troubled mental state of her childhood. One heated argument later, she has suffered a psychotic break which means her sculpture is finally ready to take shape. Since it is titled 'The Perfect Man', you can see exactly where this is headed. Surrounded by all those muscular specimens at the gym, she works on getting some of them back to her room. While she employs a number of tactics (some sexual, some not), the result is always the same as the guys end up parting ways with bits of their bodies that they would definitely miss. With a mountain of limbs (and other organs) at her disposal, Ashley looks for the finishing touch which her work demands. It's probably hidden under that last unturned rock in her repressed memories.
Sculpture is bookended by scenes that perfectly capture the blood-soaked campy tone the overall film was shooting for. We watch Ashley grinning from ear to ear as she prepares to unleash her masterpiece on an unsuspecting public. Once they get a good look at what she has created, they can't decide whether to focus on the monstrosity before them or the lady with the terrifying smile in their midst. Taken together, the gallery sequences are darkly humorous and would function well as a shocking little short film. It's too bad that there is a whole lot of tedious bloodletting and misplaced family drama sandwiched in between them. The drama comes in the form of scenes of child abuse which are most troubling for me. Although never graphic, they are presented quite realistically. The seriousness of this element, while providing ample motivation for Ashley's actions, causes a major tonal disconnect with the rest of the film which is an exercise in gory excess.
Even though I'm a genre fan, I have to admit that gore alone does nothing for me. I need context and variety in kills for horror movie violence to have any effect on me. Although the effects in Sculpture are of the decidedly low-rent and slightly goofy variety, they don't bother me. I find that they deepen and enhance the gallows humor on most occasions. What bothers me is that director Pete Jacelone and his writers couldn't be troubled with trying something new in all the murders committed by Ashley. Her first act of violence is the only shocking one because we're not prepared for it. Watching her repeatedly stab her victim in a very sensitive location, I was struck by how uncomfortable I felt at the intimacy of the act even though the scene wasn't overtly graphic. None of the subsequent kills even come close to recapturing that feeling. We simply get a parade of gym-bred cattle that are brought back to Ashley's studio for the slaughter. Small details change (one guy loses his legs, another has his arms chopped off) but the pattern remains the same.
Perhaps the tediousness of the organ harvesting scenes can be explained by the limited abilities of the organ donors themselves. While the guys definitely look the part as bodybuilders, none of them bother to flex their acting muscles. At least Dustin Kerns makes an attempt to emote as Ashley's older brother. With that said, the central performance belongs to Raine Brown as Ashley and she comes through nicely with a blend of vulnerability and crazy eyes. She really sets the morbidly comical tone of the dismemberment scenes with her deranged smile and vacant expression. Fans of schlock cinema will appreciate Misty Mundae in a small role as Adam's snotty ex-girlfriend. I know you're concerned so let me put your fears to rest. Yes, she does get naked and engage in a cocaine-fueled sex scene. Better?
The movie was presented in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio. While the image was free of obvious visual defects, it definitely didn't wow me. The flat visual presentation coupled with occasionally blown out whites contributed to an image that was watchable but average.
The audio was presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround and 2.0 Stereo mixes. I chose to view the film with the surround sound mix and was promptly underwhelmed. Only the center channel carried any heft at all while the front and rear surrounds seemed to be buried pretty deep in the mix. There were no subtitles on this release.
While there are quite a few extras on this release, some of them are questionable at best. We start things off with a Trailer (2:42) which really sells the sex and violence of the film. This is followed by a featurette on The Making of Sculpture (20:18). Introduced by director Jacelone, this piece covers the 13 production days of the film and features interviews with almost the entire cast. Among other things, we get to learn about the intricacies of directing body builders. On the Set of Sculpture (6:09) also features an introduction by Jacelone and gives us some time with Raine Brown and her infectiously fun personality.
A piece on the Sculpture Premiere (7:14) gives us a series of interviews with cast members on the red carpet while Body Builders Video (5:00) is a truly odd feature that just has shots of guys working out with a bouncy dance track playing in the background. Steele's Gym Promo (1:27) is a short advertisement for Adam's gym. Rose's Fantasy (10:08) is an unnecessary black and white short film featuring four of the film's cast members in character. Besides being pointless, it does the impossible and tears through the very fabric of time in order to make 10 minutes last an eternity. We close things out with 5 Deleted Scenes. While none of them add anything to the film, the last one does present us with an incredibly awkward extended masturbation fantasy. So I guess it has that going for it.
While there are a few scenes in Sculpture that achieve the intended darkly comic effect, the overall production just doesn't come together. At best it is tedious as illustrated by the repetitive slasher elements and at worst it is tone deaf when it places those same elements next to deeply troubling scenes of child abuse. Raine Brown does a decent job as the damaged female lead but is let down by the rest of the wooden cast. If you can look past the extremes in storytelling and are in the mood for some squishy fake gore, Rent It.