Making movies is a lot like visiting a salad bar. Everyone has his own preference for the most agreeable assemblage. Some like loading the plate high with potato salad and baby corn, and some like strategizing the arrangement to recreate other well-known and famous salad types – like, say, a spinach salad (providing your salad bar includes bean sprouts, bacon, and feta cheese). Similarly, movies are the product of a huge selection of ingredients. Ultimately, budget determines the quality of those ingredients, and artistry determines the manner in which those ingredients are arranged.

Lindsay Denniberg’s Video Diary of a Lost Girl is a very artfully crafted arrangement of inexpensive ingredients. For folks who are into psychotronic madness, this will be a welcome dish; it is overflowing with eye and ear candy. It has a highly stylized visual fashion with emphasis on brilliant, surreal color schemes and patterns, as well as a variety of image textures (e.g. video resolution, tape damage, etc.). The locations and sets include Expressionistic and minimalist designs that seem straight out of The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. The soundtrack is essentially a mix of cheesy synthesizers, punk rock, and eerie psychedelic ballads – all of which nicely compliment the look of the film.

The story and storytelling elements are just as diverse as the visual and sound styles. Video Diary of a Lost Girl contains inspiration from and aspects of: the Bible; slasher films; Louise Brooks films; campy art films; erotic art; hardcore imagery, and more. In the film, Louise (Priscilla McEver) is one of an order of succubi who must have sex with a man every month in order to stay alive. Unfortunately for the men, they die as a result of having their souls drained through their penises. Basically, love gets in the way for Louise, and she must choose between having sex with her man (and killing him) or not having sex with him (and killing herself).

Denniberg’s blend of story, image, and sound is quite profound in the opening moments of the film when the mythology of Adam’s other wife, Lilith, is told. Then, throughout the course of the movie, the profundity gives way to cheesy dialog and both subtle and overt references to numerous classic and arthouse films. At times, the narrative exposition is plainly stated in conversation. At other times, it is a bit elusive (as in the resolution at the end of the film). And sometimes, it is just right. McEver and Chris Shields (who co-wrote the film and plays Louise’s love interest) give fine performances within the context of this strange and vacillating world. Their deliveries range from compellingly honest and understated to…well, however expertly one can deliver flagrantly cheesy dialog.

When one makes a salad, one is doing so for one’s own consumption; whereas, when a filmmaker makes a movie, theoretically, that movie is meant for other people’s consumption. And the more universal and agreeable the arrangement of the ingredients, the wider the audience that film will appeal to. Video Diary of a Lost Girl is so unique in its visual execution and its narrative content, that it is obviously intended for a niche demographic. So, for those open-minded enough, Denniberg’s first dark and comical foray into the realm of feature-length video production is an inspiring study of the artistry that can be achieved with the least expensive ingredients.

– By Scott Feinblatt