James Bell has only made 3 films, and yet is one of the most talked about people in the underground horror scene today. Breaking into the world with his first film, a quasi-documentary called Dog Dick, Bell changed his style completely with his second outing, Manuer. In Tantrum, his most recent film, which had its world premiere recently at the Slaughter In Syracuse film festival, Bell turns the tide once more, delivering something else that is definitely fresh and unique.
Tantrum tells the story of a man who commits suicide, which brings forth visions of his past, startling dreams of his future, and releases his innermost desires – which also seem to be his inner demons. Bell plays the lead character while his wife, Mae, plays opposite. They are the two main people to appear in the movie, and both are excellent in this silent film. James has a very unique style to his features that I can only describe as a visual assault on the senses, where the look, sound, and overall toneof the movie will definitely leave you, well…feeling. What you feel is all dependent on the viewer, but for me, it was very surreal. Being able to see it on the big screen at the beautiful Palace Theater made it an experience, but watching it again at home-made it more intense and, frankly, dirty.
In the case of Tantrum, Bell worked with the band Slings to create an extremely haunting, jarring, and intense musical score that fits the film in a way that few other scores could – probably because James took the unique step of using music that was created for him and building the scenes of his film around the sound of the music, and not trying to force music into a scene where it wouldn’t fit. It’s one of the most unique ideas for making a film that I’ve come across, and when I tell you that it works perfectly, that’s a testament to both Bell and Slings, and how well the pairing really fits.
I have to say that I feel I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention how great all of James’ on-screen gore and ‘gags’ work. If you’ve seen Manuer, you’ve experiences only the tip of the iceberg in what he is capable of doing not only as a director, but as an FX artist. I had to laugh at some of the scenes, myself, because when you’re watching someone anally penetrating themselves with a crucifix, you can’t help but chuckle. I wouldn’t ever be able to speak to Bell’s actual intent with any of his scenes, but I feel as though any reaction to a scene like that – whether it be laughter or shying away in disgust, is a true win for any filmmaker.
Overall, Tantrum is one of those movies that won’t fit itself into everyone’s varied tastes, but it doesn’t try to, either. James and Mae are making the kind of movies they want, and they are being embraced by the kind of people who love what they do. The films are stylized, brutal, low-budget films made be people with an eye for something different, and with each release, the Bells are showing exactly why they’ve got everyone talking.