Sunday, November 13, 2016

Trash Fire (2016)

 Richard Bates Jr.

WRITER: Richard Bates Jr.


Adrian Grenier
Angela Trimbur
Fionnula Flanagan
AnnaLynne McCord
Sally Kirkland
Matthew Gray Gubler
Ezra Buzzington
Molly McCook
Ray Santiago
Ronnie Gene Blevins


Owen is at a pretty weird stage in his life. The guy is currently visiting a therapist, he also suffers from bulimia, he is prone to having fits, and his relationship is now on the rocks. When his girlfriend tells him that she's pregnant, he is immediately opposed to keeping the baby. When he comes around to the idea, his girlfriend Isabel gives him a few terms and conditions and wants him to confront his past. This will bring together Owen, his disfigured sister, Pearl and his evil grandmother Violet.

I remember hearing some positive word of mouth about Trash Fire out of Sundance Film Festival back in January of last year. I remember hearing folks talking about it being somewhat disturbing and dark. I didn't hear much else about the project after that. It wasn't until I listened to a recent Podcast that my interest was again spiked with the film. They talked about how the movie goes to some very dark places. As soon as I heard that, I had to seek it out and watch it.

Going into the movie, I wasn't aware that the film was directed by Richard Bates Jr. A few years back, he released his feature film debut with Excision. A pitch-black, grim, and a twisted little movie starring AnnaLynne McCord. The movie stuck with me long after watching it. So when I realised that this was the latest film from Richard Bates Jr., I was pretty excited to see where he'd go with his most recent effort. I'm happy to learn that his twisted sensibilities haven't faded over the years.

I'll start with the tone of Trash Fire. The film plays like a black comedy in the first and second acts of the film. It slowly descends into darker territory towards the third act, and things get pretty bloody. Straight away, the movie opens on a slightly funny note. Adrian Grenier is in a therapy session, and his therapist is fast asleep as he's pouring out his heart. His response is to tell her that she should retire because she's old and compares her situation to those of older drivers not being allowed to drive after that certain age as it's not safe for everyone around them.

This opening scene will give you a pretty good indication of how the rest of the film will be on a tonal level. The movie, for the most part, is successful in delivering the weirdness and jet-black comedy in equal doses. What makes all of the tonal shifts enormously successful is that every actor plays these moments completely serious. The dialogue is said with such seriousness that even the more outlandish and brash comments had me sold. I was shocked that a couple talked to each in this way. I've had my fair share of relationships that went sour, and I wouldn't even say some of the things that Adrian Grenier's character says in this film.

This story starts to shift gears once our main couple Owen and Isabel get to Owen's Grandma's house. His deformed sister Pearl also lives in this house. Pearl suffered third-degree burns to eighty percent of her body in a house fire that Owen caused which also killed his parents. His Grandma is an extremely rude and religious zealot who has no problems telling Isabel that she is a slut. Pearl is much nicer but doesn't come out of her room because she fears people will ridicule her looks. This is where things start to get uncomfortable.

To give much more away would ruin the film. I'll just say things becoming increasing more dark and sinister, and the movie ends on a slightly grisly, downbeat note. While I enjoyed the build-up, the ending is the movie's biggest downfall. I think I personally thought things were going to get much worse than they actually did, so when Trash Fire suddenly ends, I felt a little let down by the ending. I guess I wanted more Pearl and more craziness. Still, it doesn't completely ruin the rest of this odd and twisted little movie.

Now onto the acting. I'm not a big fan of Adrian Grenier. Never liked much of his stuff minus James Toback's Harvard Man with Sarah Michelle Gellar. I think Trash Fire is his best performance to date. He is a complete arsehole in Trash Fire, and it really suits him very well. Angela Trimbur runs circles around Adrian Grenier. She is excellent as his girlfriend who puts up with his shit. I loved her in this film. The women of Trash Fire are the standouts in this movie. Every single one of the women in his life deliver fantastic performances.

Owen's Grandma is played by Fionnula Flanagan. She is evil and venomous. Both those words are an understatement. I don't think I've seen a matriarch so evil since Meryl Streep in August: Osage County. What can I say about AnnaLynne McCord? She deserves more recognition. She's worked with Richard Bates Jr. on Excision and Trash Fire now. If these performances are anything to go off, she is suited as his muse. Her final scene as Pearl had me cheering even if I wanted more. All three woman deliver the goods.

Don't go into Trash Fire expecting a scary movie as you'll be sorely disappointed. This is more of a dark comedy than a horror film. The movie does go to some dark places, but the movie is void of any real suspense or jump scares. Don't go into this one and expect a straight up scare-fest as this feels razor sharp and pitch-black. Trash Fire is more of an uncomfortable experience than an unnerving or intense one. Just go into this for the fantastic performances and twistedness of the story, and you should have a good time with this story.



- A woman is seen bleeding and burning alive in a vision.
- A guy has a fit while having sex and drools over a woman's face.
- A man is shown burning alive in a vision.
- An old lady has a vision of her family with their eyes removed.
- An old lady is seen masturbating on a couch.
- A snake has its head ripped off.
- A man and woman are shot with a shotgun.

Trash Fire starts off as a dark comedy and slowly descends into utter madness. The film is very well acted from all involved, it successfully mixes both dark humour with violence, and I cared for the majority of the characters here. Where I had problems with the film was the ending. I expected things to go much further than they actually did and when it suddenly ends, I was left a little disappointed with the ending. Still, this is an enjoyably twisted little film. Like Pet, this was a movie that really surprised me more than disappointing me.


  1. So glad to see someone else knows about this film and enjoyed it as much as I did, May have enjoyed it a little more than you but glad to see you've given it a positive review.

  2. I still enjoyed this on a second viewing. A solid movie. The performances are all phenomenal.