"Burning Palms" is a graphic novel (i.e., a comic book for adults). As the pages are flipped by the wind, five stories unfold in this bizarre, extremely sexual anthology . "Palms" are the tropical trees of Los Angeles County, which is the setting for all five tales. "But "palm" is also a part of the hand from which all five fingers extend outward. "Burning" can describe uncontrollable, perverse lusts or desires which grip numerous characters in this film.
Expertly directed by Christopher B. Landon ("Disturbia"), "Burning Palms" reminded me of Stephen King's "Creepshow." Whereas "Creepshow" relied heavily upon gore, "Burning Palms" relies upon sex for both shock value and dark humor. Because of its strong sexual content, it also reminded me of the classic HBO series "The Hitchhiker," which contained a lot of sexual violence; each episode's ending was rather shocking and provocative.
The huge cast for "Burning Palms" is a talented, gorgeous one. My favorite performer was Lake Bell who portrayed the wisecracking, hippie-looking, acid tripping nanny, Mary Jane. On numerous occasions, she made me laugh out loud. Even her name is slang for marijuana. Her character reminded me of Tipper whom she also portrayed in the hit romantic comedy "What Happens in Vegas."
Zoe Saldana ("Avatar") gave an emotional tour de force as the distraught rape victim, Sarah Cotton. Other beautiful actresses who gave outstanding performances as sexual victims are Rosamund Pike ("Surrogates") and Paz Vega ("Triage"). The handsome Dylan McDermott ("The Messengers") gave a great performance as the father, Dennis Marx, whose relationship with his fifteen-year-old daughter Chloe (Emily Meade) borders on incest.
When I realized that the stories had tragic endings, I began feeling genuine tension and stress as I feared for the safety of the characters. I stayed up long past my bedtime watching this film; I couldn't turn it off. The cinematography of beautiful LA and Baton Rouge, combined with a dramatic orchestra soundtrack from composer Matthew Margeson ("The Expendables"), helped make this an enjoyable film. However, because of the foul language and perverse, graphic sex acts, it is not recommended for children.
My only complaint is with the DVD release from Image Entertainment. Surprisingly, there is the absence of special features such as deleted scenes, "making of" featurettes and cast/crew interviews. Thankfully, it has English SDH subtitles for those of us who are hearing impaired and is presented in its theatrical widescreen aspect ratio of 1.78:1.
On the DVD, there is also a trailer for "Burning Palms" as well as for numerous other films, which all look intriguing: In "The Way Back," prisoners who escape a Siberian gulag must traverse 4,000 miles of wilderness; in "Fall Down Dead," a serial killer terrorizes a witness of his latest Satanic murder; in "A Beautiful Life," a runaway struggles to survive on the seedy streets of Los Angeles; and in "The Killing Jar," a group of strangers at a truckstop are taken hostage by a crazed killer.
"Burning Palms" is highly recommended for all fans of bizarre dramas and collectors of strange, frightening anthologies. Though watching it didn't mess me up for life (at least I hope it didn't), it is a very disturbing film that I won't be able to forget anytime soon. Kudos to the director, Christopher B. Landon, for his artistic bravery and I hope he plans more shocking, avant-garde anthologies of this nature.
Joseph B. Hoyos