The emotion of love has a duality to it.  The obvious side is inspirational, life-affirming, everything a person thinks about when they fantasize about the concept.  However, there is also a shadow side to love: it can be thoughtlessly compulsive, obsession-inducing, something that blinds you to everything else going on around you.  These two sides are inseparable, with the emotion being so intense that it’s hard to avoid letting it devour you entirely.

Plenty of movies have devoted themselves to showing just one side of that romantic coin, with the commercial filmmakers pursuing the more life-affirming side and the more transgressive-minded filmmakers going strictly for the darker side.  It’s rare to see a film that tries to give equal attention to both sides of love, portraying the emotion in all of its ability to inspire and frighten.  Consumption Of The Heart is a recent short film that goes for that kind of complexity and the result is worth the time for fans of challenging horror filmmaking.

The premise of Consumption Of The Heart is simple in narrative but complex in emotion: a young couple is going through the motions of domestic life with middling-at-best success.  The woman (Brandi Bishop) tries to inspire passion in the man (Adel Souto) but he’s not picking up on the cues.  He cares about her but he’s just not passionate.

Things change when she begins to notice strange bruises on her body and some unexpected bleeding.  At first, she feels sick but she soon becomes amour-crazed and pursues her partner in a way he can’t miss.  He soon responds in kind  and also develops the same physically troubling condition she has.  Perhaps it has something to do with the local troubles mentioned in the news reports on the television, the ones neither seems to pay much attention to…

Without getting into spoilers, Consumption Of The Heart is as quiet as it is extreme.  The film gets progressively more visceral as it goes along – in both the sex and horror departments – but there is a moody, understated quality to it that avoids melodrama or other hysterics.  This approach works because writer/director Andy Copp uses the extreme angle of his material in the interest of exploring a complex vision of what love is rather that doling out cheap shocks.  He gives this exploration an effective visual style, mixing shadowy interiors with elements of primary color, and a moody alt-rock score that seals the atmosphere (the songs by Rachael Deacon are particularly effective, evoking a mood that is both sexy and creepy).

To be honest, it’s also a little rough around the edges: the dialogue-driven scenes aren’t as effective or compelling as the purely visual storytelling and Souto has trouble summoning up the depth of emotion his character requires as the story progresses.  That said, everyone involved in Consumption Of The Heart goes to outer limits to realize the film’s dark yet humanistic vision, especially the cast, and their courage is admirable.  It’s rare to see this sort of edgy material tackled in such an adult yet surprisingly understated way.

In short, Consumption Of The Heart covers some very complex emotional territory in a short time, managing to be intensely romantic and intensely horrific at the same time.  It’s a valentine for the darkest of hearts.

Availability Notes: This short is being released as part of The Collective Vol. 5, an anthology of zombie-themed horror shorts being released in November 2012 by Jabb Pictures.