Director: Rose Glass Screenwriter: Rose Glass, Weronika Tofilska Cast: Kristen Stewart, Katy O'Brian, Jena Malone, Anna Baryshnikov, Dave Franco, Ed Harris Distributor: A24 Running Time: 104 min. MPAA: R

Calling Love Lies Bleeding a surreal erotic thriller would be an understatement. It’s not just horny, but hardcore horny as it charges forward into the most daring of territories. There is a level of pulp that is so powerful in this picture, and it has many surprises ranging from kinky to chaotic. There’s such a thrill when watching a film with the guts to say, “Yeah, we’re doing this,” with its boundless arousal of the senses.

Kristen Stewart is fully in her element as the gym runner Lou in 1989. She’s at a point in her life where she’s trying to place the bad stuff behind her, be it her dark history with her father (Ed Harris, who appears balding with long hair) or her smoking habit. While she curbs her smoking habit, she finds herself turning others onto drugs. She uses steroids as an ice-breaker to get to know the wandering bodybuilder Jackie (Katy O’Brian). Jackie is homeless, so she shacks up with Lou while she prepares her muscles for a bodybuilder contest. They work all day, train all night, and fuck everywhere in between.

Lou’s life of having wild sex with a bodybuilder grows complicated with her brother-in-law, JJ (Dave Franco). The mullet-boasting dufus has grown violent with Lou’s sister, Beth (Jena Malone), and it becomes clear that this abuse is never going to stop. Murder enters the picture as Jackie’s rage becomes uncontrollable, and Lou’s survival instincts with hiding dead bodies kick in. The crimes continue to mount and complicate as the lesbian couple find a way to escape from it all. With some faith and passion, they might be able to avoid the same fate as Thelma and Louise.

The awakenings this film is going to generate can’t be overstated. Director Rose Glass cranks the erotic levels to high right from the start, as the camera enters the gym and cuts between sweaty, trim bodies and motivational/suggestive posters. The tension mounts beautifully as the mystery behind Lou’s relationship with her dad unfolds, leading to moments of hiding bodies and getting into brutal gunfights. The weirdness is embraced for moments of Jackie becoming lost in a drug-induced haze, where visions of vomiting bodies and tilting landscapes flood the screen. And the finale is so bizarre that all I can say is that those with a fetish for big girls are going to eat well.

There’s a level of greased-up grit that becomes intoxicating for a film like this. Lou has a mixture of clean and charred, favoring evenings of microwaved dinners and cigarettes before masturbating on the couch. Jackie is a bodybuilder so obsessed with building her mass that the camera gets close to show the veins bulging and the muscles tightening to a degree that borders on body horror. It’s easy to see how quickly Lou wrestles her to the ground mid-workout so she can suck and bite her toes. Ed Harris isn’t just a creepy gun owner who likes bugs; he starts munching bugs when his corrupt schemes don’t go his way. Anna Baryshnikov deserves to be mentioned for her details as a pixie of a user with nasty teeth and a frightening enthusiasm for wanting to hang out with Lou. The murders are bloody and gory, and feature nasty crunches that make each kill have that extra dose of ouch.

Love Lies Bleeding is all sorts of kinky, cunning, and compelling for its almost effortless merging of an erotic lesbian romance and vicious crime thriller. In a desert of erotic thrillers, this isn’t an oasis but a waterpark that will fully quench the thirstiest of viewers. There’s something for everybody in this movie, whether you’re turned on by Kristen Stewart going down on women, Katy O’Brian showing off her guns (while working at a literal gun range), or Ed Harris with long hair chowing down on bugs. Sexual, violent, and weird in all the best ways.

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