Review: Tapeworm (Slamdance 2020)

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Title: Tapeworm
MPAA Rating: NR
Director: Milos Mitrovic, Fabian Velasco
Starring: Alex Ateah, Dave Barber, Stephanie Berrington
Runtime: 1 hrs 18 mins

What It Is: A man takes a bloody stool in the woods and is convinced he’s dying. A caretaker grows fed up with her lazy son. A shy woman attempts at being a comedian. A couple has sex in the woods and smoke. They do as they do, dealing with everyday troubles and annoyances as their lives intersect in different ways.

What We Think: It was an interesting start–the beginning definitely caught my attention right away with a gorgeous shot of a bloody stool. From then on, what we have is what was said above–people doing their thing and for the most part, trying their best not to be as miserable as they are despite lackluster circumstances. It seems they all want to get somewhere, be somewhere else, even if there’s a lack of trying. The directing is something that is entirely present, especially through the actors’ (intentionally) flat performances and dull dialogue. It’s kind of grungy and plain. It’s awkward viewing these people acting out in the fashions they do; they’re not necessarily perfectly functioning beings, to say the least. It actually really sort of a haunting–that’s more likely than not overstating it, but there’s a strange and painful realism behind all these “everyman” characters and their struggles. Loneliness, insecurity, laziness, obsession, detachment… and there isn’t a hero in view, perhaps except for those willing to comfort a fellow man, however briefly. Through its real-film-grain presentation and subject matter, I feel this is the sort of low-key existentialism influenced by works such as Gummo (the presented title is also likely a hint or a reference to it as well).

Our Grade: C-, Though slow and sort of monotonous itself, there’s a fair sense of dark humor to this piece, a sort of self-aware smirking behind the showcase of a group of quietly melancholy people. And there are some moments of observation, very fly-on-the-wall, that makes me feel all sort of compassionate and reflective. It’s kind of a bummer that way, in a good way.

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