The Sculptress

Friday, October 27th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

It's one of those stories that sounds good on paper, yet plays terribly on the screen.

Sarah (Katie Wright) is a young artist who's left her guarded home in England to study at an institute in San Francisco. She unwittingly moves in next-door to Dobie (Jeff Fahey), a down-and-out actor and budding psychopath responsible for a series of murders. While Sarah tries to cope with balancing her deeply religious upbringing with her budding sexuality, Dobie tries to cope with the voices in his head. Sarah finds solace in the arms of her teacher, Professor Giraud (Patrick Bauchau), while Dobie seeks solace at dollar-a-minute peepshows.

The supernatural soon rears its ugly visage when Dobie shows signs of possession by being hell-bent (ahem) on procreating, and Sarah begins having strange visions and sculpts even stranger busts. The two are psychically connected, and fate begins to draw them together.

It's all territory that has been mined before in countless European horror-thrillers by directors such as Dario Argento and Mario Bava. However, where those gentlemen ladled hearty servings of sex, violence, misogyny, debauchery, disturbing imagery and the kitchen sink onto their work in order to elicit a reaction, The Sculptress goes in the opposite direction.

It's so completely devoid of thrills or titillation that one can't help but wonder if writer-director Ian Merrick was afraid to delve into the depths of his own subject matter, preferring to wade in the shallow end instead. Although the acting is serviceable, the players are given little to do. The characters never really develop, and the plot plods along with no real momentum. The result is a fatuous, sterile movie filled, ironically, with musings on what it means to be an honest-to-God artist.