'Heartless' - Directed by Philip Ridley - England
'Heartless' starts strong, with its story of the young man Jamie (Jim Sturgess) crippled with shyness over a conspicuous heart-shaped birthmark that takes up a good portion of his face and the hooded demons he notices as they commit violent crime in London's back alleys. It's shot well, the demons provide some early, freaky moments of horror, and Sturgess makes for a sympathetic, interesting lead character. Then, it all sort of goes downhill.
Writer/director Philip Ridley seems to be attempting a Neil Gaiman-esque story of a disaffected youth whose life is altered by colorful, supernatural characters, but doesn't appear to have a specific goal he's working toward narratively. When Gaiman approaches material like this, no matter how fantastic and unbelievable things get, its obvious he's building to something. Ridley's approach is more kitchen sink, tossing everything into a hodge-podge of murky motivations and half-baked concepts that never really pay off, in the hopes that something, anything, will work.
There's so much spiritual, otherworldly mumbo-jumbo going on (most of it revolving around a Faustian pact with the Devil, here named Papa B, and his pre-pubescent Indian princess sidekick, who, inexplicably, starts referring to Jamie as "dad"), that when Ridley tries to wrap things up with a big, emotional ending involving Jamie's dead father, nothing on screen feels earned. Worse, nothing on screen feels rewarding by this point. While ambitious, 'Heartless' derails in a big way, stacking the deck with weird moments intended to give it some kind of cult status, without considering that films specifically designed to be "cult" are rarely the ones that actually are.