The first time I heard about this film was from Dan Martin after recording an episode with him and Mike Muncer for The Evolution of Horror podcast. If you’re not already aware of who Martin is then you must not be a listener of the Arrow Video Podcast which is hosted by Martin and his esteemed co-host Sam Ashurst, who also happens to be a filmmaker. We were drinking some beers when Dan started giving me a brief synopsis of Ashurst’s latest film, A Little More Flesh, which took a different approach to your typical film and instead presented itself as a director’s commentary of his film… Interest was immediately peaked and therefore I have been waiting in anticipation to see how Ashurst would approach this independent feature after the success of his previous film Frankenstein’s Creature.
A Little More Flesh is presented to the audience as a director’s commentary, which although has been done a couple of times before, isn’t a go-to format for many films. From a dark and dingy room, we hear the voice of Stanley Durall as he looks back at his erotic drama film God’s Lonely Woman that he shot back in the 70s. He gives commentary primarily on how the film was shot, and also about the main actress Isabella Dotterson, played by Elf Lyons, and how even though he was heavily attracted to her, she would not behave and perform in the way he expected and caused many problems to him through the duration of filming.
The concept around A Little More Flesh is perfect for an independent film, but could be considered a little daring – for anyone that doesn’t particularly like voice-over commentaries, this might be a struggle to get through. However, it’s an inventive way to approach a film and also provides a sense of realism that often had me reminding myself that this wasn’t actually real. It also helps that the sunlit exposure of the film really captures how a 70s drama film would have looked. Due to it feeling so authentic in its execution, there were times where I had to focus on separating Ashurst’s voice from the character he is playing; if you know Ashurst from the Arrow podcast then you will know he is a very lovely gentleman, but the character he plays is despicable and there were a couple of times where I just couldn’t believe Sam would say a thing like that. However, if you can look past that and concentrate on the sentiment of the person, you’ll have no problem disassociating the real from the false.
Duvall is one of the most despicable, disgusting and misogynistic male characters that has ever been created, and it is very upsetting listening to the way he speaks about the women in his film, women in general and specifically his lead actress. God’s Lonely Woman is supposed to be some kind of allegory built within a pornographic movie, however as we go through the film with Durall it becomes obvious that he went to abusive, violent and illegal lengths to force Isabella into inhumane scenarios for the sake of his “artistic vision”. It becomes increasingly hard to watch what Isabella was put through during the filming and to listen to how Durall has convinced himself that what he was doing was absolutely okay, but that’s the purpose of A Little More Flesh; to feel controversial and push our boundaries.
A Little More Flesh itself is not male gaze at all, which reminds the audience that this is not a misogynistic film itself, but a film about misogyny. It feels very relevant and hard-hitting, resurfacing the conversation around metoo and how many directors from the 70s era did indeed think it was more acceptable to treat women as objects that could be manipulated perversely for them to produce what they thought was a better film. One particular quote from the film stands out and feels all-encompassing of the sexist men within the film industry that have made and continue to make films that completely objectify women and that is “a waste of tits”. Even though it’s exceptionally uncomfortable to hear this phrase, it felt appropriate for the film and doesn’t feel gratuitous in its use.
Although we never hear Elf Lyons speak, she does an incredible job at portraying Isabella through her facial expressions and body language, helping us to easily identify the contradictions between what Durall says and how Isabella was feeling. Sometimes silence really does speak a million words, and through her discomfort we recognise her plight, which makes it easy to feel for her and identify with what she’s going through.
Ashurst has created a film that has a highly controversial edge to it, and could easily be taken in the wrong way if the person who is watching doesn’t take the time to appreciate and understand the poignant messaging. The ending of the film left me feeling satisfied too – it twists into a gritty supernatural revenge film with some exploitative grisly & gory effects from none other than Dan Martin, which will leave male viewers feeling very uncomfortable. A Little More Flesh is a thought-provoking and topical indie film that uses extreme exploitation tropes to drive home an important message.
Verdict: 4 out of 5