Chloe (Taylor Zaudtke), a teenager mulling over how to finance going to college abroad to ‘study fish’, receives a call from Kevin (Michael Patrick Nicholson), her weed dealer, and offered a cut of a deal that would net her some fast cash. Though there’s something creepy about his voice – and a prologue showed apparently the same Kevin doing something very gruesome on the lawn of a home owned by the frequently-victimised Larry Fessenden – she still drives out to an isolated mansion to hear him out.
When she gets to the place, Kevin’s not there … but Stu (Jeremy Gardner), who’s in a metal band with the absentee, has showed up for either a practice session or to work up some new material. For a long stretch, the film just has these two characters chat to each other as if this were a one-act play, and it’s to the credit of the cast and director Eric Pennycoff’s script that the movie doesn’t lose its grip during this slow, involving section where the not-quite-ditzy miss and the uptight metal guy unbend a little in a misleadingly sweet, nervous courtship. In one smartly-written scene, Stu tries to teach the teen princess how to do a proper metal scream, and gets defensive when she mentions that he sounds like the Cookie Monster. However, there are hints that not all is well – beyond the severed heads in the pool – and Kevin’s phoned-in excuses start to sound strained and creepier.
When the third character shows up, the apparent plot is broken and put back together in a new configuration – and the film starts to hinge on the demented Kevin’s attempt to get his partner to prove metal credentials by doing something truly appalling and then writing a song about it. Though the high concept of the film seems to be the hypocrisy of being not metal enough or too metal to bear, what’s actually going on is a far less subculture-specific account of the possibly abusive relationship between self-deluded male artist and potentially-endangered/possibly-vengeful female muse – and Zaudtke and Gardner (who are both also in Fingers, with Gardner scoring another FF credit in Bliss) play this theme for all its worth. Stu lyrically talks about how inspirational Chloe is while she is literally bound and gagged in his arms and his lack of understanding (‘you haven’t listened to a thing I’ve said all evening’) sets up a pointed punchline. Of course, casting stoners as clots blithely drifting into danger and metalheads as incipient murderers has a slightly conservative air – but the point is that all these characters seem to be middle-class but aspiring to a rebel lifestyle.