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Marla Main

Marla Movie Review

Written by Joanna K. Neilson

Released by High Octane Pictures


Written and directed by Lisa van Dam-Bates
2018, 92 minutes, Not Rated
Released on November 5th, 2019

Lisa van Dam-Bates as Marla Mae
Travis Johnny Ware as Jake
Katie Hemming as Jules
Jason Stange as Dr. Lourdes
Palmer Chase as Detective Wirtz


Marla Mae is a twenty-something bartender with a sweet boyfriend/boss. To make her low-key life complete, she'd really like to get an IUD to last the next few years. An old family friend, now a physician, offers her one for free at the clinic where he works. The offer seems too good to be true and, of course, it really, really is…

This promising twist on the Vagina Dentata (shown in films like Teeth) myth lacks bite - sadly it falls apart almost at once. While the idea isn't bad at all, the execution is less impressive. It's a dull, mostly charmless film, without any humour or style. One or the other of these factors could have made it bearable. While the story kind of comes together at the end, the journey to get there is pretty tedious.

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The very start is actually promising. The creepy opening title sequence reminded me of A Nightmare on Elm Street 1 and 3 – where we watch a character building something that's part of the plot later on. The music throughout isn't bad, the electropop is great if a bit too dirgey, and the performances and special effects aren't all bad – but again it all fails to connect as a whole horror movie experience. For something this bloody, it feels boringly... dry, with some terrible choices of camera angle (back of the heads talking at a bar for instance). Even the gore you may have turned up for is muted.

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Strangely, the horror swings from not that graphic to so gory it's silly – especially given the generally dull surprise of any characters nearest to the carnage: nobody behaves like a realistic person. The bad guy who gives Marla Mae the IUD has no real motive. All we get are some diagrams for the thing he's built but little exploration of what he was actually up to. The characters are consistently flat and muttering their lines. It's just lacking any polish that would have helped to lift the story being told. Even (slight spoiler?) the way the IUD kills men isn't very clear either, beyond extreme melting – and why isn't Marla affected too?

It's clearly trying to be in the vein of exploitation gems like Basket Case – but it never takes the situation large enough, or goes crazy enough with its SFX to pull that off – except for a single brief moment – but the bored character reactions and the half-assed police investigations come off as unlikely.

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Everything picks up a little right at the end, but by then you probably won't be invested enough to care.

Given its concept, I did really want to like Marla, hoping it would be a weird take on the exploitation genre. IUDs can be scary all by themselves, instead the effort falls flat.

A disappointing, dull and wallowy flick, that really could have been a romp, lacking the energy to keep interest in its gory premise. Marla is a dull, strained film with a laboured approach that just doesn't pan out.

Marla Mae should've tried her luck at Planned Parenthood first.


Movie: 2 Star Rating Cover
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