Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Richard Bates Jr.|
|Written by||Richard Bates Jr.|
|Music by||Michl Britsch|
|Edited by||Yvonne Valdez|
Trash Fire is a 2016 American black comedy film written and directed by Richard Bates Jr. and starring Adrian Grenier, Angela Trimbur, Fionnula Flanagan, AnnaLynne McCord, Matthew Gray Gubler, and Sally Kirkland. The film had its world premiere at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival on January 23, 2016, and was released in a limited release and through video on demand on November 3, 2016, by Vertical Entertainment and Orion Pictures.
Suffering from depression and longstanding guilt over a fire that killed his parents and disfigured his younger sister Pearl, Owen Roberts struggles through relationship issues with his girlfriend Isabel Sullivan. Together with Isabel and on his own, Owen regularly sees uninterested psychiatrist Florence and takes medication for sudden seizures that include flashbacks to the fateful house fire he blames himself for.
After alienating Isabel’s devoutly religious brother Caleb as well as Isabel's friends Sheldon and Amiee, Owen further frustrates Isabel when she reveals she is pregnant and he callously insists on abortion immediately. Owen has a change of heart and expresses a newfound desire to start a family. As a condition of forgiveness and acceptance, Isabel insists that Owen first make amends with his estranged grandmother Violet and sister Pearl, whom he abandoned to live with Violet following the fire. Owen agrees, but warns Isabel about his grandmother’s abrasive disposition.
Devoutly religious, Violet greets the couple coldly, insists they sleep apart, and repeatedly refers to Isabel as a whore. A recluse whom Violet insists remain in her room because of her appearance, Pearl remains hidden away and refuses to see Owen. Isabel wants to leave because of Violet's constant verbal abuse, but Owen insists on staying until he can reconnect with Pearl. While Owen and Violet are out grocery shopping, Isabel privately bonds with Pearl. Later, Isabel repeats her wish to leave after another outburst from Violet at the dinner table, though Pearl visits Isabel during the night trying to convince her to stay.
Violet tampers with Owen's medication. She then goes to see Pastor Sterling at her local church to tell him of haunting visions that she began experiencing when Owen returned. Violet claims that she hears a voice she believes to be God telling her to kill the rest of her family. She confesses that she set the fire that killed her daughter and son-in-law, and convinced Owen he was responsible in order to drive him to suicide. Horrified, Pastor Sterling insists that Violet is delusional. Violet threatens to expose Pastor Sterling for having sex with Owen’s mother when she was just fifteen if he goes to the police. Violet then steals a rattlesnake from an aquarium tank in the pastor’s office before leaving.
Back at home, Violet hides the snake in the toilet bowl and masturbates while watching an evangelist preach on television. Meanwhile, Owen pays an emotional visit to the site where his family's house once stood. Isabel screams when she discovers the snake. Pearl rushes into the bathroom, kills the snake with her bare hands, and thrusts it at her grandmother in the kitchen. Violet makes Owen go into the crawlspace underneath her house under the pretense of repairing a piping hole where the snake came through. Violet tries starting a fatal fire while Owen is under the porch, but is physically unable to strike the match. Owen and Pearl finally speak to each other. Pearl refuses to forgive Owen for abandoning her.
During the night, Violet enters Pearl's room and points a gun at her granddaughter. Pearl responds by pointing a shotgun at Violet. Violet laughs and leaves the room. Owen takes the tainted medication and collapses in the kitchen. Violet enters and points her gun at Isabel as Isabel cries on the floor over Owen. Pearl comes in with her shotgun and kills Violet. She then turns the gun on her brother and fires. While Isabel sits against the wall in shock, Pearl comes over and lays her head on Isabel’s pregnant stomach, smiling.
- Adrian Grenier as Owen
- Angela Trimbur as Isabel
- Fionnula Flanagan as Violet
- AnnaLynne McCord as Pearl
- Sally Kirkland as Florence
- Matthew Gray Gubler as Caleb
- Ezra Buzzington as Sterling
Trash Fire premiered at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival on January 23, 2016. Shortly after, Vertical Entertainment acquired distribution rights to the film. The film was released in a limited release and through video on demand on November 3, 2016.
The film received mixed to positive reviews from critics. On review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film has a 67% rating based on 18 reviews, with an average of 6.5/10. Metacritic reports a 42 out of 100 score based on 10 reviews, indicating "mixed or average reviews".
- Geoff Berkshire (January 24, 2016). "'Trash Fire' Review: Adrian Grenier's Sundance Midnight Movie". Variety. Retrieved August 19, 2016.
- "Trash Fire". Sundance Film Festival. Retrieved October 11, 2016.
- Kay, Jermey (May 13, 2016). "Vertical acquires Sundance horror 'Trash Fire'". Screen International. Retrieved October 11, 2016.
- Collis, Clark (October 11, 2016). "Adrian Grenier is forced to confront his past in exclusive Trash Fire trailer". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved October 11, 2016.
- "Trash Fire (2016)". Rotten Tomatoes. Flixster. Retrieved December 6, 2016.
- "Trash Fire Reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved December 6, 2016.