“Painkiller” (2014): Pleasure and Pain Become Equally Strong Addictions As Experiment Goes Awry

Toying with nature rarely works out successfully for even the most well-meaning of scientists in horror and science fiction films, and this axiom holds true in Action Media Productions’ engrossing short film Painkiller.

As the film opens, a young scientist (Thomas Mendolia) tells a mysterious visitor (Jerry Janda, who also wrote the screenplay) about how he and his fiancee (Kelly Rae LeGault) began doing radical biological research in the pain management field when they were fresh out of graduate school and in love. Their focus was to alleviate pain in cancer patients. Their solution was an organism that feeds off pain and rewards its host with pleasure. Surely there could be no side effects from that, right? The organism was genetically designed from the beginning to work solely on humans, so animal research was never an option. Unwisely the couple decided to do their initial human experiment on her, which brings us to the present and, eventually, the reason for the visitor’s call.

Radical experimentation in pain management takes a young pair of engaged scientists to places they could have never imagined in Painkiller.

Elements of sadomasochism (implied more so than graphic, for those wondering, though there are some gruesome effects), body horror, and creature features are at play in Painkiller. Jerry Janda’s script weaves a wicked short tale and seasoned director Jeremiah Kipp keeps the affairs moving along at a favorable pace.

Though a good story is key, a film needs solid acting, and Painkiller delivers just that. Thomas Mendolia and Kelly Rae LeGault give engaging turns as we see them go from a happy, loving couple to the desperate victims of science run amok. Jerry Janda is intriguing as the mysterious stranger and Jill Di Donato also impresses in her short but key role as another outsider who finds herself part of the couple’s bizarre account.

A scientist (Thomas Mendolia) explains his bizarre predicament to a mysterious stranger (Jerry Janda).

Director of photography and cinematographer Jeffrey S. Gould also handled editing and sound design, doing a sensational job in all departments including assembling the eerie, sometimes minimalist score. Steve Adams also deserves mention for his part in the cinematography. Special effects makeup and creature fabrication designer Daniel J. Mazikowski has crafted a creepy, crawly organism that I found very cool  and his body horror effects are striking, as well.    

Director Jeremiah Kipp and his crew have fashioned a gripping, highly entertaining sci-fi/horror hybrid in Painkiller. I look forward to seeing future releases from Kipp and thankfully he has an impressive past body of work to check out until his next release.

Painkiller: 4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

Joseph Perry
Joseph Perry fell in love with horror films as a preschooler when he first saw the Gill-Man swim across the TV screen in "The Creature from The Black Lagoon" and Mothra battle Godzilla in "Godzilla Vs. The Thing.” His education in fright fare continued with TV series such as "The Twilight Zone" and "Outer Limits," along with legendary northern California horror host Bob Wilkins’ "Creature Features." His love for silver age and golden age comic books, including horror titles from Gold Key, Dell, and Marvel started around age 5.

He is a contributing writer for the "Phantom of the Movies VideoScope" and “Drive-In Asylum” print magazines and the websites Horror Fuel, Diabolique Magazine, The Scariest Things, B&S About Movies, and When It Was Cool. He is a co-host of the "Uphill Both Ways" pop culture nostalgia podcast and also writes for its website. Joseph occasionally proudly co-writes articles with his son Cohen Perry, who is a film critic in his own right.

A former northern Californian and Oregonian, Joseph has been teaching, writing, and living in South Korea since 2008.