Black Metal Veins, 2012
This review may contain spoilers.
Beginning with a disclaimer that stays on screen for a good minute and half and seriously warns the viewers of the content of Veins with a convincing film disclaimer template. It ends stating this: “This film delves into the infinite black void of sadness, pain & loss that can never be filled by the elusive high of crack or heroin”.
Veins is certainly a horror movie, despite the documentary label put there by the infamous Lucifer Valentine. I shall not delve in to Valentine’s other abomination of desolation projects which, while regressing are more than just a challenge not only to watch but, I’m guessing, also extremely difficult to shrug off, or washed with bleach or perhaps burned, although not without damaging the subconscious of the totally willing viewer.
Veins follows the lives of a bunch of disparate (with drugs being the common denominator) and desperate, depressed and disenchanted young people (the eldest, Chris, pushing thirty) waiting to die by “accidentally overdosing someday”.
In one scene Chris rambles about his children, who no more live with him after he lost custody to his own mother six months ago (from the time the film was completed). Chris is also the one who is tasked with scoring drugs for the vapid and the rapid retrogradation (an example is given of a woman who overdosed in a barn, the day she walked out of detox) and decay and the nausea inducing decline of the main characters. We watch Chris as he vacillates between mania and a full blown existential crisis. He speaks of his children repeatedly with glazed eyes, he speaks of the futility of life for a junkie, being bi-polar, the acceptance of being a nobody, the insistence of being a nobody and then the frame freezes and letters fill up the screen, stating that “[sic] one month in to filming and Chris was shot 27 times during a deal gone bad”.
Then there’s Brad, hooked to his mother’s prescription since childhood. Synthetic heroin (Oxycontin and Oxycodone) that she takes for a very rare and a terminal disease. A disease that, the doctors and the FDA say, cannot be contained or the carrier’s life-span cannot be increased unless all those drugs are consumed, with more than a dash of pure morphine. Brad is a Satanist, like the film’s director (did we need to know that?). A fate-driven degenerate with extremely bad teeth and toe nails that would make the viewer look for a pair of nail cutters in a frenzy of sorts. Brad listens to Black Metal, as do the others. He and the others play covers from Bathory, Deathspell Omega, Abigor among other ‘shrieking and gurgling to screeching guitar riff‘ bands. One of the live-ins shoots crack-cocaine in to Brad’s neck. It made me think (even more) of an old friend who we lost to drugs about eight years back. Not good, not good at all. No sir.
Autumn Misery, for me, is a drug deterrent herself. When the viewer listens to her stories of training pimps, being a stripper a hooker and a dominatrix among other things, while throwing up and trying to keep the crack in, slunk from the toilet, combined with the most depraved visuals (read: anti sex footage) the viewer at some point has made a hand-to-heart promise to himself to never touch drugs, or to go cold-turkey as soon as the bloody film comes to a truly harrowing end. Yes, after it comes to an end.
Raven is a pretty girl as the film begins and she boasts about how she loves crack and manipulates her (clean) boy friend in to buying drugs for her. She is full of energy, spending most of her time on the phone or with a needle.
Brad: “How many caps did you shoot?”
Brad: “She’s dropping”
Mark: “Raven? Can you hear me man?”
Brad: “Raven, c’mon man don’t fucking drop on me man.”
Before that part the film jumps six months ahead, where we see a gaunt, repulsive, pock-marked, abscess filled Raven, shooting up more than ever. She’s also aged about forty years (her skin is literally hanging to her skeleton by the end of it ) and is almost unrecognizable, if not for her bubbly disposition that she tries to keep up with to the end. We also often see her naked and goodness, Raven’s physical transformation actually scared the Venlafaxine outta me. Inter-cut with scenes of home videos that show Raven as a child, Raven at her graduation, Raven smiling in a glossy, framed photograph. It is all so surreal and maddening that this viewer had to look away from most needle punctures after the film has shown us the total annihilation of a seemingly normal twenty something year old, and a mother of two.
Sad, morbid and unflinching, Valentine’s film is most effective for viewers considering a touch n’ go with hard drugs. It is also a repellent for heavy users, like yours truly (to an extent. yes.) – I like my Mary Jane and morphine and Valium every numb day – who for the first time in two years did not roll one up before going to bed. Yup, that bad.
The blotter editing by Valentine is quick and gets to the ghastly point after another distressing point, before the viewer can say ‘Hydromorphone‘, coupled with chaotic direction, loud Death-Satan-Metal and the bleak location, the peeling apartment, whose walls always seem to be closing in with each new frame, Black Metal Veins succeeds in becoming a hand-to-heart substance abuse deterrent, like Requiem for a Dream, 2000 by Darren Aronofsky. The camera is real close to the faces while each tell their stories.
However, the deaths shown on-screen are more mind-bending than say, cutting oneself up to make the weighing scale get to certain irrational mark, by feeding pieces of oneself to the menacing weighing machine. Here the subjects simply fall off the couch, or their eyes roll up and they’re carried away to another room and stripped (for no apparent reason). Valentine admits to having staged at least one death (thankfully) for shock appeal. Well, shock it does but it also takes away the underlying patronising that runs throughout the film for those few frames when death is being acted out by someone already on the verge of it.
The film is shocking, undaunted, cringe inducing and one of the most effective horror documentaries out there.
A man just passes out into oblivion before your eyes, a stationary and abandoned but still recording camera captures this without any music or dialogue or histrionics. He simply drops like a fly. Just writing about it makes me wanna cry.
Black Metal Veins, while delving in to the music genre for very little screen time (since there was much emphasis given to Death Metal Bands in the beginning), shows us the ugly, nasty reality of lives consigned to oblivion, in the effort to do just that. I hated it it but I’ll admit I was shaking in my boots just with anticipation throughout the 92 minute run time of the film and then some after the credit roll which, again, is filled with superimposed commentary that makes you curl in to a ball and just be like that for a day or two.
Watch it if only to get over that very bad habit. Stay far away if needles make you squeamish and all uncomfortable. This picture means unalloyed, unreserved and unmitigated (unlike most drugs being consumed) business.