LOS ANGELES — “How would you dispense with a dead body?” Bree Mills asks, adjusting her black-rimmed glasses to appraise her assistant’s work.
Despite Mills’ small frame and casual demeanor, she’s unquestionably the one calling the shots.
“It shouldn’t look professional,” she says, flipping her short blonde hair out of her eyes. “It should look like it was done by teenagers.”
Her assistants continue wrapping a body in black trash bags, rope and duct tape. While they work, one sings the Dixie Chicks' song, “Goodbye Earl.”
This is the scene I stumble on when I arrive at the set of PureTaboo’s first feature film, “Half His Age: A Teenage Tragedy.” Throughout the day, I will witness a number of strange scenes from the tragic script, all of which are shot out of order. I feel like a bumbling detective struggling to put the puzzle pieces together, to identify who is responsible for this madness, to declare that it was Colonel Mustard in the Billiard Room with the Candlestick.
I begin my investigation by snooping around the sprawling ranch house accented by Spanish tile and antique furniture. Dia de los Muertos folk art covers the walls. Skeletons are arranged in postures of life: dancing, drinking, doing yoga. Skulls are painted with floral designs. I stare into the mirrored eyes of death masks. These artifacts are a reminder that all things contain their opposite, and their undoing.
Soon thereafter, on camera, Jilly Kassidy’s character Lola stumbles into the parlor holding a rifle. Her naked body is sprayed with blood.
“I did it,” she confesses, grinning.
This is the moment in the film when Lola transforms from a popular schoolgirl to a deranged killer. Still, the question remains, who, or what, pushed her to this end. An argument could be made that Lola’s attractiveness and popularity are the culprit. Beauty often distorts perceptions and disguises the monstrous.
Charles Dera, “Mr. Davies,” repeatedly lurches into the parlor carrying his dead wife, played by Cherie Deville.
“We’re done with you for the day,” Mills tells Deville when they have the scene in the bag. “We won’t need your corpse for a necro scene.”
Apparently there are limits to what a taboo studio will show in their sex scenes. Still, I doubt I’m the only one disappointed by DeVille’s dismissal. I’m generally not a fan of necrophilia, but death doesn’t look that disturbing on DeVille. Sure, her dress is bloody, but her hair and makeup remain untouched, and her fit physique has yet to be disfigured by rigor mortis. Her character’s tragedy came when she discovered her husband had replaced her with two younger, teenage mistresses. You and beauty are forever fleeting: This lesson plays out again and again in porn, and life for that matter. And so, DeVille hops in her car and hits the road, merging into the purgatory of L.A. traffic.
Over lunch, the crew saws through burritos and murders the filling with hot sauce. Amid containers of salsa and dipping sauce sits a mixing bowl offering fake blood. As we eat, the plastic-wrapped body remains at our feet. The corpse challenges us to consider how we would handle murder, or a dead body, in our personal lives. Some of us kick the cadaver. Others sit on its face. Kristin Scott ("Heather") straddles the corpse and takes a selfie. I cuddle the mannequin, cupping its plastic breasts.
And while Lola technically murdered Mrs. Davies, ultimately she was acting on Mills’ instructions. Despite having masterminded this whole, tragic scene, Mills remains jovial and untouched by the fake blood that has gotten on most of her crew. Like a mob boss, Mills manages the big picture while she empowers the professionals she surrounds herself with to knockout the details. Her scripts are both meticulously organized — complete with color coding and a sound track — and also flexible. Instead of dialogue, she writes scenarios and trusts the performers to improvise the dialogue. Before each scene, Mills holds a kind of, “Porn Script Theater,” in which she reads from her script while the performers gather around listening, some naked, covered in blood or stroking their erections as they get into character.
In most tragedies, as in most lives, death is the peak of the story arc. In this dramatic porno, sex is what seals the main character’s fate. The moment at which he feels most alive, is the moment he begins his fall.
Soon enough, Dera begins face-fucking Scott while shushing her, then pounds her into a frenzy while covering her mouth. His character, Mr. Davies, is attempting to get away with bedding another of his students without waking his other teen mistress.
Between takes, Mill reminds Dera of his character’s opposing feelings toward Scott’s character.
“She’s like a wild animal loose in your house,” Mills says. “You’re really into her, but you’re also really afraid of her, and of getting caught."
This is the nature of the taboo. The forbidden is alluring. Few people fantasize about safe, cautious sex where nothing is wagered. Taboo sex infuses physical pleasure with the adrenaline rush of risk. Most of us want to experience these forbidden thrills while avoiding the consequences. Often, however, these opposites cannot be divorced. This is why so many people fantasize about taboo sex, and watch taboo porn, without ever partaking in such prohibited behavior.
To understand who, ultimately is behind this whole twisted mess, you will have to watch the finished film. You can catch a dim reflection of the culpable party when the film cuts to black and you’re left staring into the glare of the plasma screen. You cannot consume porn without being complicit in its creation. We, the consumers, are the silent mob demanding to watch these taboo scenes unfold for our own twisted amusement.