MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Director: Pirie Martin
Starring: Derryn Amoroso, Kate Holly Hall, Henry Errington
Runtime: 1 hour 38 minutes
What it is: Cliff Van Aarle, a private detective of sorts with an in depth knowledge of the strange and a broken mind, decides to take on one final case: helping two small-time drug dealers figure their way out of a bizarre mess. Little does he know, he is in over his head. Soon, Cliff finds himself in a chess game with a mysterious drug kingpin with mind bending capabilities. What follows is a dark tale filled with hallucinatory and nightmarish imagery as Cliff dives deeper into the underworld, seeking out the mysterious figure known as Joubini.
What We Think: Holy hell . . . I’m gonna save you the suspense and say this outright: I LOVED THIS FILM. I don’t think an indie film could have catered to my tastes more. This is possibly the most fun I’ve had watching a film to review it. You had horror, film noir aesthetic, street gangs with menacing tattoos, mind controlled zombies, vigilante men dressed as wolves, trippy visuals, gore . . . Needless to say, I was definitely the target audience for this film.
First off, the way it starts . . . I have a background in psychology and for one of my psychology classes along the way, I have listened to what was basically an auditory hallucination simulator meant to simulate what someone with schizophrenia experiences. The very beginning of the film starts with a black screen and a similar experience to the simulator begins, with multiple disembodied voices overlapping and telling contrasting, paranoid messages. Already, this caught my interest. Then the film opens to a coffee cup . . . In black and white. You find out through the “Narrator voice” that all of these voices are auditory hallucinations in Cliff’s head, who we see is doing his best to maintain his composure despite the voices. He is talking to the two drug dealers about why he was called. It turns out they were attacked by two people who seemed like zombies. One of the two people who attacked got decapitated and his head is laying on the floor . . . And immediately at this point I was hooked. I had no idea where this story was going and at this point I wanted to know more.
From there, the film was an absolute adventure. It’s a low budget film, no doubt, but the effects are done so well that it doesn’t even matter and hinders the enjoyment of the film in no way, shape or form. The world building of this strange psychic ability based world is so interesting that I genuinely think this movie would work very well as an indie comic. Hell, the characters and plot almost seemed like they were ripped from an Image comic title. The movie felt like a healthy mix of Constantine and Eraserhead with maybe a little Sin City or Sandman or Preacher mixed in, all off which are properties I deeply adore. It almost felt like this movie needed Nine Inch Nails music in the background because it would’ve fit the vibe so well. There was a sort of natural gothic atmosphere that the black and white brought that enhanced a level of enjoyment for me. It’s a very cool flick.
Another plus is the movie does not dip in quality. I found myself waiting to be disappointed by this movie because I got so enamored with it at the beginning, but luckily it did not disappoint. It did not disappoint at all. It wound up being an absolute blast all the way through. It was smart where it needed to be but never pretentious, there was genuine nail biting tension at points, and the noir aesthetic both held an eerie vibe and turned out to be a very useful tool in terms of helping the visual effects be convincing. This film was put together by smart filmmakers who knew how to properly manage their budget and still tell the story they wanted to tell. I have seen a fair amount of low budget indie flicks doing these reviews, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen such limited resources handled so well.
If there is one weak point of this movie, it was the acting. Some of the acting was a little stilted, but I’d argue everything else about the movie was so cool that it genuinely didn’t matter. It was never enough to take you out of the film which is, I think, a testament to how well it’s made.
Our Grade: A+, this is probably the most biased review I’ve done, but this has also been my personal favorite movie I’ve reviewed thus far. I think the most important aspect of this movie to me is just how damn fun it is. It’s a psychological, hypnotic thriller with elements of horror and superhero like concepts. I was smiling like an idiot the whole movie because it never stopped being interesting or cool to me. I think in a lot of cases for films for film festivals, they can try too hard to be brainy or thought provoking. Too hard to be unique or artsy or to convey some deep, at times pretentious, message. This film is deep, has very smart concepts, and is very artsy. More importantly, though . . . it’s entertaining. It isn’t trying to be unique, it just is and is doing a damn good job. Kudos to Pirie Martin and the rest of the cast and crew, you all made one hell of a movie.