Director: Reb Braddock

Reviewed by Paghat the Ratgirl

CurdledSince she was a little girl, Gabriella has been fascinated by murder & death. She keeps scrapbooks of grisly crimes & doodles satirically around the edges of the articles she pastes into her "family album."

Our protagonist for Curdled (1996) additionally loves horror films & grisly historical incidents. She doesn't quite seem like a psycho in the making, but more like someone with a stunted development, who continuously acts like a gum-chewing little child uncommonly fond of scary stories, real or unreal. She is chipper & upbeat about her love of grue, the clear opposite of a depressed goth.

She quits her job at the bakery when she finds out there's a type of job she'd like better: post-forensic maid service. She gets to clean up after bloody suicides & murders in Miami. Again her delight in her macabre work is not conveyed so much as indicative of mental illness as it is healthy curiosity. She is like an amateur forensic scientist assessing bloody messes to try to reconstruct specifics of the crime in her imagination.

The rest of the women in the cleaning crews try not to think much about the job or who was killed & for what reason, but Gabriella with excitement shining in her eyes & a big beautiful smile loves everything about her new job.

CurdledIn one clean-up she finds a clue missed by the police & CSI because it was hidden under blood. This discovery results in her figuring out the identity of a serial killer, whose mystery filled many pages of her "family album" of clippings, so that she has a familial desire to interact with the killer rather than report what she found.

William Baldwin does an excellent job as the sensual psycho known as the "Blue Blood Killer." But the high success of this film hinges on the stunning good fortune of casting Angela Jones, as it is the rare actor, & the rare expressive face, that can skirt along the edge of sweetness, beauty, & luridness with such perfection. With a bad actor or even a good but inappropriate one, Gabriella could not have been the same joyfully weird character.

Her literal "dance of death" at the blood-spattered crime scene becomes both a literal & figurative dance of death with the killer, who has returned to the scene hoping to eradicate the very clue Gabriella has uncovered. Sexy, absurd, & darkly humorous, but also very suspenseful, the killer vs Gabriella builds in a crescendo of menace culminating in an event which the audience has to assess as evidence either of madness or of stoic heroism.

The DVD includes the original short student also titled Curdled (1991). It's a synoptic version, a charming film though nothing compared to the superb feature that grew out of it. It does also star Angela Jones, however, & it's interesting to see her earlier development of this wonderful character.

Angela's interpretation of Gabriella is additionally interesting to compare to her character of Esmerelda Villa Lobos in Quentin Tarantino's Pulp Fiction (1994). It is my guess that Tarantino became aware of Angela through the 1991 short film, & remained sufficiently haunted by the performance that he not only cast her as Esmerelda but also helped to produce the 1996 feature.

copyright by Paghat the Ratgirl

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