REVIEW: Eroticide [2013]

Score: 6/10 | ★ ★ ½

Rating: NR | Runtime: 38 minutes | Release Date: 2013 (Canada)
Studio: Sinema Saliba / East Empire Productions / Juventus Films International
Director(s): Matthew Saliba
Writer(s): Matthew Saliba

“I’m the woman of his dreams. And you? You’re the silver medal.”

With a title like Eroticide, it isn’t hard to imagine at least one character dying by the time the credits roll. Who of Matthew Saliba’s sexually warped love triangle will it be, though: the doormat, the predator, or the prey? Love, sex, and self-worth can combine to form any number of psychological cocktails just waiting to explode when the players find themselves lost in an unfamiliar territory like happiness. If you’ve lived your life in a way where human compassion cannot exist without some string being attached, you’ll know the waiting for that other shoe to drop can be an excruciatingly painful exercise of self-doubt. It’s made far worse when those involved are broken to the point of accepting their own martyrdom as a gift to repay the kindness they didn’t deserve.

When we meet Yan (Jocelin Haas) and Elise (Stephanie van Rijn) they’re entrenched in a nine-month long bubble of joy. Two people with extremely low self-esteem thrust together via a car crash, it’s little surprise their genesis would be a harrowing episode bonding them by tragedy, guilt, and forgiveness. They are the love the other never thought possible; someone to see the other as flawless rather than mired by the shortcomings each personally believes they possess. That sense of blind allegiance isn’t a cure to the torment of not being good enough, though, but instead merely a tenuous bandage with the potential of getting ripped off at any second. What could catalyze such a relapse? How about a viciously domineering ex-girlfriend relishing the opportunity to expose the wound and tear it wider?

Lo and behold, that’s exactly who catches Yan and Elise off-guard at the small shop they chose to celebrate their anniversary. Knowing the hold she had on him for five years couldn’t break easily, Kendra (Lisa Di Capa) dives in to ensure the new girl understands the same. Details are shared about Yan’s troubles with sex due to psychological blocks forcing him to engage in erotic humiliation to perform; how he and Elise haven’t consummated their relationship as a result; and that Kendra’s mere presence renders him absolutely powerless. So, when Elise explains afterwards that the only way she’ll forgive his letting a psycho ex treat her like dirt is to finally sleep together, we know his sheepish agreement is underlined by a need to imagine Kendra’s abuse in order to comply.

Saliba has therefore created a dark and twisted situation with little room for happy endings. Yan is reminded of his inability to be deserving of anything good while Elise’s plan to be whatever he wants so she’ll never lose him skews dangerously away from rationality. Kendra plays puppet master, molding their insecurities and emotional deficiencies to her every whim so she may bask in their demise. It’s a sick experiment to perform on anyone, but shepherding two souls as tragically injured as these is pure, diabolical evil. A dominatrix with infinite power over the weak-willed, Kendra quickly rewraps her former pet around her finger while lording her superiority over the only one that could save him. So reliant on someone else so damaged, regression can’t help but become Yan and Elise’s only option.

A lengthy short at 38-minutes, Eroticide contains some thought-provoking situations dealing with sexual manipulation and the human psychology of two apparently normal lovers harboring unavoidably devastating secrets. The performances occasionally fall into overwrought territory by drawing broad depictions of torturer and victim, but I’m not sure you could have it any other way once things spiral out of control. Kendra needs to be pitch black so she can realistically undo nine months of love in a split-second to cause Yan’s backslide into her web. We initially believe her villainy stems from jealousy, but her true motivations prove much more heinous. Her lesson teaches us that we either deserve good fortunate or don’t—a middle ground is nonexistent. And whichever way we decide, there’s no end to the lengths we’ll go to prove it.

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