Gore films can be exhausting. There comes a point for the average horror fan when, about halfway through a movie like Dreaming Purple Neon, the face-chopping, flesh-tearing, blood-spurting scenes onscreen begin to feel like a challenge to one’s ability to maintain. Marveling at practical effects aside, there needs to be something more than just a series of gross-outs and pushing the limits.
Director Todd Sheets, in his nearly three decades of making splatter-filled micro-budgeted pictures, has that figured out. In Dreaming Purple Neon (out now from Unearthed Films), the viewer is given more than just outrageous setpieces designed to shock and horrify. While there are gouts and gouts of fake blood for those that want it, Sheets has crafted a film which has at its core a story of redemption.
The plot is fairly standard: “Dallas (Jeremy Edwards) returns home after years away to try to reconnect with his ex, Denise (Eli DeGeer).” It’s then combined with the intersecting story of Cat (Millie Milan), who “steals her boss Ray Ray’s (Antwoine Steele) stash of Neon Purple and goes to meet Denise at her boss’s office.” Given that this is a genre film, “Ray Ray and Tyrone (Ricky Farr) follow her there, looking for his drugs, while a demonic cult is operating out of the basement trying to raise demons by using the drug to bridge the gap between the land of the living and Hell.”
All three pieces of the story come together very quickly, and once everyone is at the dentist’s office where Denise works, things start heading downhill really quickly. There’s obviously that demonic cult in the basement, and they’ve managed to create some sort of horn-nippled warrior woman to bring about the end times.
Once down in the basement — which is surprisingly sepulchral for a building somewhere in Missouri — people start gushing multi-colored liquids from various orifices, characters are mutilated in a series of eye-popping ways, and we find out just where the Purple Neon comes from. Our heroes battle their way through the basement catacombs, and deal with interpersonal relationships along the way.
The plot of Dreaming Purple Neon doesn’t quite convey exactly how batshit the movie ends up being. Drug dealers, Satanists, dentists, and a man in black all come together to create this genre mashup that wobbles on the edge of being too much, but manages to keep everything together by recognizing that there needs to be some sort of storyline to keep it cohesive, especially once people start getting literally torn apart.
In execution, the plot’s almost as messy as the effects — I’m still not quite solid on how everything works out at the end — but I watched this back-to-back with Zombi 3, so Dreaming Purple Neon seemed positively spelled-out in comparison. If nothing else, Antwoine Steele absolutely owns the film during his time in it, and he’s the sort of actor who elevates a pretty good movie into something worth recommending.
Still, the everlasting appeal to the films of Todd Sheets is that they’re fun, and they’re not afraid to go for the gusto. In an interview with Kansas City public radio station, KCUR, Sheets had this to say about Dreaming Purple Neon:
“It will remind you of the glory days,” he said. “You’ve got the splatter film kind of mentality going. It’s gross — I’m not going to kid. We’ve pushed every button known to man on this one.”
Seriously: there are several scenes wherein guts are pulled out of people in astonishingly graphic detail, including at least one instance of them yanked directly out of one very unlucky guy’s anus. It’s a lot. It looks good, but I appreciate the fact that while watching, you know it’s fake. I love me some crazy disembowelment a la Lucio Fulci, but I want it to look gory in a horror movie sense. I do not want to see something which attempts to recreate the look of a surgical video.
Speaking of Fulci, he’s one of the several people to whom the film is dedicated, and Sheets succeeded admirably in owning up to the Italian director’s legacy. If you’ve been looking for a splatterfest which has more to offer than just oodles of goo, Dreaming Purple Neon is your jam.
Dreaming Purple Neon is available now on DVD from Unearthed Films.