It may be sexy and subversive, but “On The Edge” is really a heartbreaking portrayal of the horrors we endure to find redemption and rebirth.
It’s Women’s History/Women in Horror Month. And we’re thrilled to celebrate by looking at the latest passion project from two of the most influential advocates for amplifying the voices of women in independent genre filmmaking, the talented and unapologetically fearless filmmaking due, The Soska Sisters.
The duo, Jen and Sylvia Soska, consistently makes genre films that provocatively challenge boundaries while portraying groups misjudged by society in a more positive and realistic light. Their third original feature film, On The Edge, is no exception.
The respect held for sex workers and kink subcultures is apparent in the empathetic storyline of their new psychosexual thriller. They even hired a male adult film star as their lead, and Aramis Sartorio does not disappoint.
Sartorio plays Peter, a frustrated family man who shows more interest in his business affairs than in his doting wife (played by Sylvia Soska) and twin daughters, Chloe and Tori.
On The Edge explores BDSM through a lens of therapeutic healing.
There is a catharsis and release to be found in this practice, and Jen Soska explores this through her captivating role as Mistress Satana.
A jaded Peter books a thirty-six-hour-long session with Mistress Satana. Satana is a Dominatrix who offers pleasure, pain, and the introspection that these sensations can bring to an individual who may feel trapped in the mundanity of everyday life.
Sartorio may have experience playing the role of Dom in his work as an adult entertainer. However, in this role, he plays a submissive shell of a man teetering on the edge, both physically and emotionally.
Sartorio absolutely stuns as Peter.
As a viewer, we are alongside him as he moves through the different bodily sensations and tortures that Mistress Satana offers.
Similarly, we experience Peter’s inner world as he pushes through the boundaries of his physical limits. We are privy to old memories that offer a glimpse into the trauma and emotional pain he has fought to survive against disturbing odds.
On The Edge focuses on our inner mechanisms and the life experiences which shape us as adults.
This isn’t a story about sex; the film’s primary purpose isn’t to titillate but to evoke.
Instead, the film focuses on the beauty of healing from trauma and the tremendous resilience it takes.
As an adult with a trauma diagnosis, I emotionally connected with this film on a spiritual level. And I believe that it will deeply resonate with many people willing to look past the surface-level elements of sexual allure.
This movie is SEXY, make no mistake.
However, it is the humanity at the core of each and every character which shines through and sets this film apart as a study of the endurance of the human spirit.
Just as BDSM, Fetish, Kink, and Queer culture often go hand in hand, the portrayal of these subcultures pairs well with the portrayal of people suffering from trauma.
Society continues to treat us as taboo, and the Soskas warmly grant us the empathy which we may not have been shown in life.
Aside from kink, trauma, and redemption, On The Edge is teeming with deep Religious themes.
The notion of the forbidden fruit of Adam and Eve is wonderfully contrasted through televised depictions of a local news senator who is barking for the banning of Pornography.
After all, as humans, the more we are denied something, the more we indeed yearn for it.
Jen Soska holds all the power as Satana.
Her petite frame belies her intimidating presence, and her husky voice commands compliance as poor Peter regrets his decision to book such a grueling session with her.
Mistress Satana, however, does not demand mere complacency; she demands worship.
She may be the devil in disguise — or perhaps something much older. References to ‘Lilith’ and ‘Ishtar’ may provide clues for the eagle-eared viewer.
I appreciated the choice of primarily allowing the action to unfold in one location. Here, a murky dungeon is swapped for a lush, upmarket hotel suite which again aims to break the misconceived notions of BDSM and its devout followers.
The single-set location adds to the claustrophobia shared with Peter as he suffers through the dark delights which Mistress Satana has in store for him.
We get a great cast of memorable supporting characters alongside tremendous leads.
The hotel check-in clerk (played by Canadian comedian Ola Dada) perfectly embodies the clerk’s amiable mannerisms. And Andrea Jin’s portrayal of a sheepish maid effortlessly switches to a spellbound servant.
Senator Coleman perfectly carries his regal presence and encapsulates the narcissistic, domineering disdain of one recent American president wonderfully.
Sylvia Soska slips into her frustrated housewife role with the ease of slipping into a pair of stockings, and her on-screen daughters Chloe and Tori (played by Alanna Finn-Morris and Brianne Fin-Morris) capture the feverish rigor of teenagers.
The cinematography provides a grounded, documentarian feel. The camera lingers upon shocking segments while never slipping into gratuity, and it also allows for some secrecy by employing discreet angles. The camera often slowly pans off-screen to allow our imaginations to run wild.
Wolf’s ability to weave a genuinely psychedelic nightmare using only light and shadow cements her as a cinematographer who knows how to manipulate her audience.
I was very happy when I spotted Jen and Sylvia’s beautiful service animal and faithful companion, Princess Diana The Rottweiler, as Mistress Satana’s guardian.
Canadian musical artist Kevvy provides rhythmic, pulsating music, while the elaborate costume designs are courtesy of Alexi Johnson.
Speaking of costumes, On The Edge gifts its audience with many mouth-watering outfits for Jen. However, it is her final incarnation that will stun audiences. You will have to watch to find out for yourself, but rest assured that the towering figure will surely haunt your dreams… or your nightmares.
The story’s ability to linger long after the credits have rolled shows maturity and depth from its feminine filmmakers.
If things become too tense, know that God cannot help you: you’ll have to make sure you scream the Safe Word.
Like a snake shedding its skin, you may feel changed after witnessing the richness and rawness of this powerful picture.