The beautiful but volatile Venus falls in love with a man whose wife has recently died, only to slip into a spiral of obsession and madness when she suspects he is sleeping with another woman.
Goddess of Love is written by and stars Alexis Kendra (Hatchet II) and tells the story of Venus, a beautiful stripper who makes the fatal mistake of falling in love with a man she meets at the club. This man is grieving widower Brian (Woody Naismith), who quickly makes it clear that he’s not ready for a serious relationship, but it’s too late. Venus is already infatuated, and thus begins her descent into madness as Brian tries to break things off.
I’ll admit, I wasn’t expecting much from Goddess of Love. The narrative of the obsessed ex-lover has been done before, and there are certainly shades of Fatal Attraction to be found here, right down to the mutilation of a family pet. But I was pleasantly surprised by what Goddess of Love delivered, in no small part due to a fantastic performance by its lead.
Kendra plays Venus with a softness and innocence which lends credibility to the fragility of her character’s mental state, reminiscent of Shawnee Smith’s performance as Amanda in the Saw franchise. A film like this which hinges on the believability of the protagonist’s unstable mind to convey its tragedy requires a degree of connection between protagonist and audience, and thankfully the director is patient enough to allow us time to become endeared by Venus and even sympathise with her before her obsession plunges into dangerous territory. Quick glimpses of her giving food to a homeless addict or crying alone in her bathtub make her feel very real and good at heart, and the blissful, languid mood set during the scenes of her new relationship with Brian makes you root for things to work out for her. Of course, they don’t, and as Venus begins to stalk Brian, believing he is sleeping with another woman, the viewer becomes an unwitting accomplice to her obsessive voyeurism.
The problem I had with Goddess of Love is that I constantly found myself wanting more from it. The film establishes an unsettling tone very early on, with quick flashes of creepy imagery like a fat, shrieking grub writhing in a birdcage beginning to appear to Venus as she loses her already tenuous grip on reality. These nightmarish hallucinations were handled very well but, having set this disquieting tone, the film proceeds to sit at this level for most of its runtime. Things pick up a little in the last fifteen minutes, but Goddess of Love would have benefited a great deal from slowly ramping the tension up and up until it became unbearable, with more and more unsettling imagery creeping in, before delivering its admittedly interesting climax. As it is, with little change in pace throughout, the viewer quickly becomes acclimatised to it, and the whole thing feels somewhat flat.
On top of that, there were a few amateur editing errors which really took me out of the film, like Venus carelessly dropping the needle of her record player onto the middle of a record, only for a song to promptly start playing from the beginning – this made me laugh the first time it happened, and it was even more noticeable and improbable the second time. There are also sporadic scenes accompanied by shaky-cam, which may have been intended to convey Venus’s mental state, but it happens so rarely that it only feels out of place and distracting.
On the whole, Goddess of Love is a well-shot and very attractive movie to look at. It has some great performances and the story is interesting enough to hold your attention, but you will likely leave it feeling hungry. It’s worth a watch, but I can’t see myself seeking out the Goddess again.
Words: Samantha McLaren (@themeatispeople)