Proceeds of Crime

By James Chappell | Horror
An all-female gang who steals hair from beautiful women targets the wrong girl.

A mysterious gang of all-female bikers named the Birds of Prey rove the streets at night, targeting beautiful young women to attack and cutting off their hair to sell on the black market.

But as their leader Hogg targets an intriguing exotic dancer at a club called the Snake Pit, the Birds soon discover they aren’t the only predators roaming the streets.

Writer-director James Chappell’s horror short offers a stylish, often bizarrely funny wild ride on the dark side, combining visual panache with fast-paced storytelling and confident performances to create a genuinely engaging, sleekly executed genre entertainment.

The plot itself has its origins in real-life attacks in 2013, where long-haired women in the coastal city of Maracaibo in Venezuela were attacked by thieves brandishing scissors, which were used to snip off their manes. The hair was then sold at beauty or hair salons, where it could command higher prices over synthetic hair.

But though its story owes inspiration to real life, “Proceeds of Crimes” is a world of its own, rendered in beautifully gleaming, coolly dark cinematography and lighting, which owes as much to the Berlin techno scene as it does to film noir and the great genre films of the 90s.

Combined with kinetic, propulsive camerawork and editing — as well as the minimal dialogue and story exposition — the undeniable visual panache simply makes for dazzling eye candy and a significant amount of the film’s pleasure.

The storytelling itself takes its tone and pace from the laconic, hard-boiled Birds, using the movement and momentum created by craft to propel viewers along, as opposed to traditional techniques based on the tension and release of information or character development.

Characters here, of course, function more like archetypes, though the central performance of Hogg by Sabrina Haley is full of distinctive charisma, and it’s an undeniably thrilling moment of female power to see the Birds riding in slow-motion on their bikes, ruling the streets with intimidation, insouciance and simply bad-ass attitude.

“Proceeds of Crime” doesn’t pretend to be a deeply resonant emotional story. Instead, it’s unapologetically entertaining and pure fun, using every cinematic tool available to tantalize, intrigue and seduce viewers into its richly conceived world and characters.

Its ending seems like a leaping-off point into a larger feature- or series-length project, and surely fans of horror or Hollywood action will want to follow the Birds of Prey deeper into its suggestive, slyly humorous world of crime, debauchery and things that go hunting in the night. Just make sure you cover your head…

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