REVIEW: 29 NEEDLES (2019, Unearthed Films)

Word of mouth is a powerful marketing tool, among the extreme horror indie community 29 Needles has been highly sought after since it was announced. The fourth entry in Unearthed Films notorious Too Extreme For Mainstream line gave Scott Philip Goergens a platform to showcase his work. As a subtle nod to infamous serial killer Albert Fish who used to insert 29 needles into his groin, the film is not for the faint hearted…

Francis (Brooke Berry) goes on a journey to explore his limits with pain and sex, taking him to a dangerous underground world of torture and personal exploration. Francis struggles to find a way to contain his inner demons and desires until he meets a man called Hans (Jamee Nicholson) in a bar who invites him to an underground club which is beyond anything he has seen or experienced before…

29 Needles is designed to push you to your limits much like Francis. Nothing can prepare you for what you are about to see, and nothing will prepare you for how you will think afterwards. The film is a straight shooter, it aims for your nervous system and it will shock the majority of viewers within a matter of minutes.

There are few films which manage to really get under my skin the way 29 Needles does. The sexual content is extreme and very much real, and the pain being inflicted is at times hard to watch. To fully understand how challenging the film was to make you only need to dive into the extras on the disc. All the actors were sourced from advertisements on social media, a search for those willing to put their bodies and reputations on the line for the purpose of entertainment. This is an extreme project which had never been done before.

29 Needles found a star in Brooke Berry. Not only was this Brooke’s debut film as an actor but Brooke insisted on doing all the sexual activities for real. Brooke is incredible in this movie, reading every line with integrity and conviction, making the character believable and complex. There are countless method actors out there but how many are prepared to do the things Brooke did. Body and soul was poured into the character and it is truly a character study done right with a lot of heart and heartache.

Without spoiling the plot direction and finer details of the story, the practical effects department puts in an amazing shift. 29 Needles is a mix of real and practical FX and there is a lot of freakish moments which will make you squirm. Then we have the excellent sound design which adds a layer of tension which complements the dark nature of 29 Needles. P Andrew Willis creates an incredible soundtrack using synth, glass, metal , electric guitar and bass among other instruments to create a wall of distorted and uncomfortable noise which fits the film like a glove. The film wouldn’t be what it is without the music and sound design which is flawless.

It is a blessing 29 Needles made it to the finish line given the number of obstacles Scott Philip Goergens faced. The film was shot over a number of years and the editing must have been a nightmare. The casting was extremely difficult due to the nature of what was being asked of the actors. Also, achieving distribution for a film which is so far away from what else is out there must have been tricky. For all these challenges, to his credit, Scott Philip Goergens managed to pull it off and 29 Needles exists as a result of perseverance and determination.

I watched 29 Needles the moment my Pre-order arrived from Unearthed Films, then rewatched the film a few weeks later and the experience evolved. I’ll be honest, the excitement I had for the film turned to apprehension when it was arrived. I was worried the film might be a step too far for me and cross the line of what I’m able to tolerate. However, to my amazement it didn’t. I found the sexual content very extreme and unsettling but the horror side of things was totally fine. This is because this was like jumping into a deep pool for me, without knowing how far it would go. Like anything, exposure to extreme things allows desensitisation to happen and your tolerance builds up. However, upon watching the film again a few weeks later I saw it in a different light and I really became obsessed with Brooke’s character transformation and the nightmarish visions that haunt his mind.

29 Needles is an extreme art film more than it is horror and it takes us to places we’ve never been before and lands a fatal blow to our subconsciousness. Once you’ve seen 29 Needles you’ll never forget it. It pushes extreme to new levels and in a cancel culture world we need films that make a real impact with no watered down content. You can’t prepare yourself for 29 Needles, much like Francis you have to test yourself to see how far you can go.

Score: 4/5

29 Needles is available to buy on bluray & DVD via https://www.unearthedfilms.com/catalog/tefm/29needles.php & https://www.diabolikdvd.com/product/29-needles-unearthed-too-extreme-blu-ray-preorder/

The official soundtrack is available digitally and in physical CD format via https://pandrewwillis.bandcamp.com/album/29-needles-original-motion-picture-soundtrack