The Horror Zine Review
The Preening Swan
A Film by Thomy Kessler
Director: Thomy Kessler
The Preening Swan
A Film by Thomy Kessler
Review by Christopher Nadeau
With his first horror film, The Preening Swan, German transplant Thomy Kessler has created the type of intelligent, thoughtful film that used to be the rule rather than the exception in the horror genre.
Mimicking with equal parts respect and irreverence the style of late-Sixties films, this is a movie featuring more ideas with a limited budget and a small cast than films from major studios produce. It is the film’s apparent simplicity that works so well in its favor. The film’s “LSD” style of mixing psychedelic colors with the occasional mind-trip is an element rather than a gimmick. The look and feel of the Sixties never upstages the story.
The plot revolves around Barbara, (played by Jordana Oberman) a big-haired, heavily eye-shadowed Sixties girl with a huge crush on her high school friend, Howard (played by Joshua Bevier). She visits him at his secluded home in the woods just in time to find out his wife has disappeared. Barbara thinks the supposedly selfish woman who once added her name to a hate list in high school has left this man that Barbara worships of her own accord, but Howard isn’t so sure.
A serial killer who wears a Jester’s costume on Halloween has been claiming victims on the area for a few years and Howard thinks his wife might have been his latest. That doesn’t stop him from going to a Halloween party, however, leaving Barbara alone for the night.
What results from this simple set-up is a bizarre trip into the type of madness most filmmakers think we don’t have the patience to watch unfold. Never mind the (hopefully) intentional anachronism of the characters using the term “Serial killer” at least ten years before it was coined.
The Preening Swan doesn’t take itself too seriously, much to its benefit. It opens with an incredible title song written by Kessler that pulls the viewer right into the world of 1968. One look at Barbara and one cannot help but laugh at her overly made-up appearance. Oberman is perfect for the role. Kudos to Kessler for casting someone with a normal body type; it lends authenticity to the overall mood of the film.
The acting can be seen as either cheesy or intentionally brilliant, depending upon one’s outlook. Much of the dialogue is laced with blatant irony and there’s one hallucination scene involving the director as a shrink that is very funny.
Oberman is sufficiently whiny and conflicted in her portrayal of the lovesick Barbara. Bevier plays Howard as a child-like, detached oddball very well, especially considering the Tarantino-load of dialogue he’s given in the film’s second and third acts. Sadly, Missy Hairston’s as Barbara’s best friend is lacking in consistency. At times she is very funny, especially on the telephone, but once she arrives in person, her limitations make that portion of the film harder to watch.
That is a minor quibble, however. Kessler’s film is an enjoyable mix of comedy, horror and suspense. The journey far outweighs an ending that lingers a bit too long. Still, the possibility of a further adventures sequel didn’t go unnoticed.
In a sea of cookie-cutter horror films, a Thomy Kessler series would be welcome indeed to break out of the mold. The Preening Swan is such a needed breath of fresh air in what can often be a stale genre. It’s a film that, much like the killer, lures the viewer in as unsuspecting and then leaves them deeply affected. The Preening Swan is a good film.
See the movie here:
About the Filmmaker
Thomy Kessler started making short films in the 80s on Super8. That was a great training. Back then he was still using real film stock, without digital editing and without the internet, which wasn't done by many filmmakers. It was harder to connect to them and at that time, he didn't know anybody making films like he did.
In 2004 he attended the Stella Adler Academy of Acting in Hollywood CA and graduated two years later. During that time, Thomy acted in many indie productions.
Finally he had to move back to Germany but wanted to keep a foot in the door and so he shot his first feature in the Los Angeles area. Although feeling well prepared by the experiences he had with his early short films and on set as an actor, Thomy took some classes at the New York Film Academy to make himself ready for his motion picture.
It was a lot of work. The goal was to make a classic Halloween movie. Since it was his project, most of the production organization he did by himself. Thomy has just begun to make films, starting with The Preening Swan (there will be more), and hopes for a career in the movie industry.
About the Reviewer
Christopher Nadeau is the author of the novel Dreamers at Infinity's Core available through COM Publishing's Sword & Science imprint and Amazon as well as the short story, "Rosa, Rosa Come out of Your Room" in the horror anthology, Saturday Evening Ghost.
He was recently interviewed on Suspense Radio as part of its up and coming authors program and has collaborated on a “machinima” film with UK animator Celestial Elf called The Gift, which can be viewed on YouTube. He has also written and published over a hundred print and online articles ranging in subject matter from local politics to pop culture and New Age cults, the latter providing inspiration for a novel currently in the works.
Christopher lives and works in Southeastern Michigan and is an active member of the Great Lakes Association of Horror Writers.