US INDIE REVIEWS: Warm New York rom com ‘Guy Friends’; Devilish horror treat ‘The Seductress From Hell’

Seeking gal pals: Kavita Jariwala in ‘Guy Friends’

Here are reviews of two new independent American films.

GUY FRIENDS *** (84 minutes)
A well-made, briskly directed romantic comedy set in New York and filmed in black-and-white, Guy Friends is a warm, funny, sharp urban tale about good friendships and bad decisions.

When Jaime (Kavita Jariwala) is dumped by her long-time boyfriend Patrick (Michael Dahlgren) all the men in her life declare their deep and abiding love for her. It’s essentially a contortion of your standard meet-cute moment, only amplified by a factor of five. It’s quite mirthful.

Seeking consolation from her college friend Ted (Justin Clark), she confronts the rocky truth, via his feisty girlfriend Sandy (Katie Muldowney), that she’s a guy’s girl that she’s a guy’s, somehow hard-wired to seek the company of men over females.

Inevitably, Jaime bonds with Sandy, who offers the guiding counsel of an older sister, especially when Jaime hints about getting back with Patrick.

Graced with a breezy flow and a string of bon mots, writer/director Jonathan Smith (Batsh*t Bride) elicits a raft of wonderfully naturalistic performances from his young cast.

Jariwala is particularly convincing and Muldowney chimes in with strong support in those crucial scenes where the comedy gives way to drama.

Wearing his influences quite proudly on his sleeve – When Harry Met Sally: Woody Allen’s Manhattan – Smith’s strong direction imbues the piece with lots of emotional realism, though it can’t quite paper over some of the story’s weaknesses.

There is the issue of how Jaime’s guy friends aren’t really guy friends at all, they’re just acquaintances who form small, fleeting parts of her daily routine. The only real “guy friend” she has is Ted.

In a city of nine million people, wouldn’t such a beautiful, personable, out-going young woman have a bigger circle?

And what actually is her problem with girls? When Jaime happens upon a potential new gal pal she inexplicably pours ice on it, suggesting she has an aversion to female friendship. Only, it’s not really explored or explained why.

As for Patrick, his cardboard character stands in contrast to most of the others in the film. He’s basically a prat, so what accounts for Jaime’s enduring longing for him? She’s out of his league, not the other way around.

Still, quibbles aside, Guy Friends shapes up as a good, funny piece about female friendship – a topic that, incidentally, is rarely touched in film compared to how many are built around the bond between blokes.

For screening details across the US visit @VileHenchmen on X.

Rocio Scotto as ‘The Seductress From Hell’.

THE SEDUCTRESS FROM HELL **1/2 (102 minutes)
Having been bullied to the edge by her abusive husband, struggling, marginally talented LA actress Zara (Rocio Scotto) discovers her demonic side and exacts revenge via some rather gruesome slow torture before dispatching her guests.

She takes a liking to the process and adopts it as a new hobby, targeting men, taking them back to her place, then dispatching them.

It’s a deliciously demented premise and Scotto does a very good job as Zara arcs from being a sheepish, put-upon victim to a murderous, decidedly misandrist predator.

Yet after her initial splurge, Zara’s motivation goes from revenge to sheer sadism, making her a tough character to warm to, even if her soul has possibly been possessed by Satan and despite her having a great dress sense.

While writer/director Andrew de Burgh (The Bestowal) ignites a tantalizing slow burn, the performances are a tad too mannered and there are a few too many plausibility lapses, even given the license we extend to horror films.

Still, not a bad dose of horror for genre fans that manages to deliver some moments of dread as to what Zara will do next.

The film is currently playing the festival circuit and is due for release early next year.