Director/Screenplay/Producer – Michael Simmons, Photography – Jenny Ramirez, Music – Danny Osuna, Production Design – Roxy Maronyan, Visual Stylist – Eric Kroll. Production Company – American Fetish Film, LLC.
Matt Jones (Chet Lands), Charlie Laine (Veronica Wax), Matt Bianca (Officer John Stockton), Zachary Marsala (Zach), Marek Matousek (Rick Wax), Breanna Benson (Sparks), Jacqui Holland (Zipper), Christy Patrick (Catfish), Sally Sandoval (Agent Montez)
Chet Lands has inherited the strip bar The Nylon Club from his father Sammy. Sammy was convicted of manslaughter in 1957 but has always proclaimed his innocence. After Sammy dies, Chet faces a mountain of debt from his estate, as well as pressure from the corrupt cop Stockton to pay protection money. Chet finds a collection of the old 8mm fetish films that his father used to make, believing that one of these may hold the truth about the murder charges. Chet brings in the mortgage broker Veronica to help sort of the club’s finances. Veronica, who is in a marriage for money immigration scam with Rick Wax, becomes increasingly more sexually adventurous and playful after hanging out at the Nylon Club. In taking the 8mm films to a local fetish club to have them evaluated, Chet becomes intrigued by the BDSM acts he sees and thinks of turning The Nylon Club into a fetish venue. Meanwhile, everybody from an increasingly dangerous Veronica to an investigating immigration agent is trying to get their hands on the fabled missing film.
American Fetish is a debut feature from filmmaker Michael Simmons. Michael Simmons has not made any films before and one is unable to find any biographical material or background detail about him or American Fetish even on the film’s website. One gets the impression that Simmons is active in the fetish and BDSM scene in some capacity, as many of the actors appear to come from this source.
Michael Simmons clearly has a great many ambitions in terms of what he wants to do with American Fetish but the degree of success is wildly uneven. The film has been cheaply made – Simmons’ attempt to pull off a sophisticated strip club environment comes out seeming like B-budget Zalman King, all cheap sets and coloured mood lighting. Simmons throws in much in the way of fetishistic and erotic poses. Some of these are occasionally striking – a stripper wearing playing cards in the crotch of her nylons, a woman in a scenario that involves wearing leg braces, bodies strung up on wires or imprisoned under a skein of material pinned to a wall. However, the fact that Simmons keeps repeating these images throughout, as though he only had limited use of the models and needed to repeat what he had to pad the running time, lessens their effect.
Michael Simmons attempts to create American Fetish in a film noir vein. To this extent, we get some cheaply moody lighting and infrequent voiceovers that strain at film noir cliches. The 1950s scenes do not convince in any way – with the low-budget he has, Simmons does not have access to a modern costume warehouse and the actors look ill-fitting in their period suits. Certainly, Simmons does a fine job of capturing the feel of a 1950s fetish film during his recreations but the effect is undone by what are clearly modern video shooting techniques – even the scenes shot in black-and-white come with modern high saturation video cinematography.
American Fetish‘s story stirs a heady pot of plot elements – past secrets regarding a murder, parties questing for clues in old fetish films, the world of a strip club, corrupt cops with a taste for sexual sadism, a woman being tempted into erotic awakening, the hero’s descent into a world of fetish. There seems something highly promising here that could have maybe acted as another Blue Velvet (1986) or 8MM (1999). Unfortunately, Michael Simmons never pulls any of it together into a plot that holds any grip – there is no unfolding mystery at the heart of American Fetish as there should be in a good film noir.
Moreover, the film reaches a downright incomprehensible ending [PLOT SPOILERS] that has something to do with all of the principal characters (even though most of them are in their twenties and thirties) also being actors that were in one of the father’s 1950s fetish films and having someone emerged to drag hero Matt Jones back in time to take the place of the father in the murder set-up. David Lynch could perhaps have made another Mulholland Dr. (2001) ending out of it but Michael Simmons comes nowhere near doing so and American Fetish slides off the map into WTF territory at this point.
All the scenes with the dancers, the women in fetish poses, the plot’s suggestion that hero Matt Jones is descending into a world of discovery about dark sexuality exists without any structure to hang it on. In fact, there is no journey into a dark world of fetish, as the film seems to promise. If you took away all the random abovementioned scenes of dancers posing, there would be almost no fetish element to the film at all.
The one scene where Michael Simmons hits the nail on the head is where he has Matt Jones visit a fetish club and view a scenario where a dominatrix sits in a chair atop a cage that allows her to dangle her heels through to two subs locked up in the cage below where she rubs a stiletto all over the man’s face and makes him mouth her heel and then makes the woman sub tongue her bare foot and even seems to be trying to force her toes down the female’s throat. It is the only scene in the film that holds the teasing games of power and dominance that fetish specializes in and the only point the film comes to life in terms of its staging or erotic promise.
The actors often seem cast for their ability to dance/strip/pose more so than their acting abilities – the most notable case here being porn actress Charlie Laine who plays the mortgage broker and fails to seem convincing in the role. The worst performance comes from Matt Bianca as the corrupt police officer in charge of shaking the hero down – a role where the pony-tailed and British-accented Bianca seems more like a lowlife thug than a convincing cop. Matt Jones is passable as the hero.