Suspicious River (2000) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

Canadian writer-director Lynne Stopkewich elevated Molly Parker to cult film stardom in Kissed (1996), in which Molly played a mortuary employee who had sex with her dead clients. That all happened because she formed a romantic view of death when she was a child, and that led to her interest in embalming and necrophilia.

Not exactly mainstream stuff.

This time Stopkewich and Parker are teamed up again in an oddly similar film in which a woman's past leads her to some sexual and emotional dysfunction, during which she sometimes pictures herself lying on the table in the morgue.

Molly plays a young woman working in an isolated motel in Suspicious River, Washington. She begins to sell herself to her customers both for money and for the indefinable satisfaction she gets from giving and receiving pleasure, humiliation, and pain. Eventually she runs into a pimp who alternately woos her and beats her, then eventually lures her to the woods for a good old-fashioned gang rape followed by a burning alive party. Now THAT'S entertainment. Molly had allowed herself to be led into the climactic situation because of a powerful self-destructive streak, but once in the desperate situation she has to determine whether she can escape the cycle of abuse that led her there, and whether survival even matters to her. She summons the will to live, then manages to survive by lying still and naked in the manner of a corpse. The bad boys don't quite know how to adapt their plans quickly enough to counter her strategy, which eventually gives her just enough of an opening to flee.

Molly's story is shown in parallel with that of a sweet young girl with a terrible home life. Maybe the young girl doesn't exist at all, and is Molly confronting herself at an earlier age. More likely the girl is just facing a situation similar or parallel to Molly's developmental influences. 

Beats me. We know that Molly suffered an abused childhood, a promiscuous adolescence and her mother's horrible death.

Now that I think about it, I guess the little girl must be real because her story eventually ties into Molly's escape from the evil dudes. Either way, the girl's story is supposed to help us understand why Molly is what she is.

I think.

I would say that this film is exploitative except that the three driving forces behind the film, the writer, director, and star, are all women, and the whole project just smacks of the typical oblique approach of the "art" film. Given those facts, I suppose it is some kind of statement about the difficulty that women face in finding self-respect and self-definition in a world which disempowers and exploits them.


Molly Parker shows her breasts and gives a very brief flash of her pubes.

DVD info from Amazon UK

  • not available in North America

  • widescreen anamorphic

  • no major features.

Or not.

Frankly, I'm not sure if that was the point, but it's my best guess.

The film is acted and photographed well, with some creepy background music which further accentuates the depressing tone, but it is slow, repetitive, and deliberately obscure. The quality of the film is solid, but the target audience consists of about three people, and I am surely not one of them. I found it an unpleasant experience, but then I guess I was supposed to.

The Critics Vote ...

  • British consensus: one and a half stars. Independent 3/10, Guardian 4/10, Standard 4/10, Express 4/10, BBC 3/5

The People Vote ...

  • No North American release. Arthouse in the UK and Spain.
The meaning of the IMDb score: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence equivalent to about three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, comparable to approximately two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, equivalent to about a two star rating from the critics, or a C- from our system. Films rated below five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film - this score is roughly equivalent to one and a half stars from the critics or a D on our scale. (Possibly even less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. (C+ means it has no crossover appeal, but will be considered excellent by genre fans, while C- indicates that it we found it to be a poor movie although genre addicts find it watchable). D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well. Any film rated C- or better is recommended for fans of that type of film. Any film rated B- or better is recommended for just about anyone. We don't score films below C- that often, because we like movies and we think that most of them have at least a solid niche audience. Now that you know that, you should have serious reservations about any movie below C-.

Based on this description, this is a C. For the arthouse crowd, and even then only for those who can stand to see women brutalized in an ugly manner. It took four years to make it to DVD, so you can guess that the investors knew how small the target audience might be.

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