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Manuel de Layet [Film Festival 09.06.11] movie review horror thriller experimental

Year: 2010
Directors: Calvin Reeder
Writers: Calvin Reeder
IMDB: link
Trailer: link
Review by: The Crystal Ferret
Rating: "Must see to make up your own mind"

[Our French correspondent continues his journey through the sick and twisted world of L'Etreange 2011]

When I said a in the last review that covering this fest on classic methods was some kind of utopia nested in a plush cushion made out of the skin of a few Care Bears, it was mostly a figure of speech relating to my inability to see everything and report back to you while still doing my day job without an amount of illicit substances exceeding my monthly income. Little did I know I would stumble upon something that’s actually not reviewable in any conventional sense…

Dearest readers, let me introduce you to “The Oregonian”.

This is a story of blonde haired, flannel wearing lass, portrayed by Lindsay Pulsipher (True Blood), who happens to have a car accident roughly 10 mins after the beginning of the movie.

What happens next?

Well I’d say “blow my bladder and call me Hindenburg”. Actually I’d be damned if I knew exactly what happened for the 70 following minutes. I remember leaving the theater with a haunted look that only left me with this morning tea and crumpets. I remember a recipe for omelet, green plush and alpacas. I have the fleeting impression that God was portrayed as a chubby redneck wearing some ugly pullover, that he was only seen in dark places, but do the dark places see him? Is he a calamari?

I will try and give you my recollections, what it made me think about, what movies could be said to be on the same level (whatever that means.) and to convey into you all the need to go and see this, because in the end no amount of blabber I could sprout will do justice to this experience.

It was introduced to us as the strangest picture on this year’s lineup, compared to “what Donnie Darko should have been”, Lynch was involved, because he always is in such cases, and the technical incident at the start could have been part of the movie without us noticing.

There is actually no real narrative continuity. The whole experience is made of flashbacks, flashsides and flashforwards all happening under the quasi constant distorted radio static that’s the soundtrack. Basically it feels like a silent hill game, when the distortion happens things are going on that shouldn’t be. Or should they?

The obvious connotations any movie goer will make, between the accident and what is following it, are with Lost Highway, Jacob’s Ladder, Sublime and all the other movies trying to deal with the last glimpse of consciousness of a decaying brain in its ultimate seconds of activity, the reality around still perceived but distorted as the neurons die one by one like happy little campers, all things mixed up with memories, emotions and the underlying knowledge of its imminent demise.

The thing is, here, that maybe this was the intention at start, I will never know, but it looks like it’s been thrown out of the window at some point, to just keep on experimenting with the boundaries of narration and filmmaking.

To get back on the soundtrack, I do hope your tolerance to odd frequencies, static, merzbow-esque harmonics and teeth grinding waveforms is high, I personally found it extremely interesting but it’s an acquired taste and could get you out of the theater if your ears are squeamish. That said, this really uplifts the movie to incredible levels of oddness and is literally breathtaking… now where was I?

Not far, I guess so let’s start with what I’m sure is happening. We have this lass, leaving her husband and the farm after taking his wallet while he is lying unconscious on the stable floor. We don’t know why, we don’t know what happened. We see her drive around a forest road, and then without transition or explanation the car is pronged on something and she’s awaking from concussion covered in blood. After that it gets metaphysical.

I shall note here, that the lead actress is one more living proof that some women aren’t truly beautiful unless covered in blood or spunk. Can’t explain why, I always regarded this as one of the great unwritten laws of the Universe, and as the duty of any gore movie casting-director to know how to spot one.

So yes, metaphysical it gets, she will wander the countryside losing blood by the litter without noticing, and encounter things, people, gods, devils, whatever they are supposed to be. The land around her is empty, houses are void of anything and specially taste. There is one scene in an abandoned house furnished to the attic with things, so awful only the standard human larvae can accumulate, from pottery owl to cross stitched Jesus, in such accumulation and display it cannot be the work of some set director. It’s like a live-in purgatory made to expiate some ungodly crime against art, nature, harmony in all their forms and incarnation past present and future. And people actually like living in there I guess, since the credits thanks them for letting the crew use their home. It reminded me of Harmony Korine’s Gummo on that point, the awful reality of the mundane human being, devoid of taste, devoid of reason, devoid of everything. The empty shell living only to propagate its unless existence into some more useless offspring, like some barbaric jellyfish mating with a can of turpentine between two rocks. I’m not sure I’m making sense, but after all it’s not the point, the movie doesn’t, why should I?

Unless you can explain me what sense there is in an obese asthmatic neckbeard in red flannel lengthily leaking 4 colors of piss before collapsing in the sickly puddle of his own urine? Even more when said neckbeard reappears later saying ‘I’m alright. Too much breakfast”. I consider myself as learned in symbolism; be it ancient and accepted or more mundane, but there I’m lost at sea. I’m on the raft of perplexity amidst the dark waters of understanding, and I’m surrounded by the sticky oil of puzzlement.

Speaking of oil, gasoline is a recurrent element in the course of things: drank like tea, used as a cocktail base, or mixed with eggs for the extra flavor it gives to the omelet. Such extensive use surely means there is Meaning. Definition. Symbol. Purpose. Yet I’m still unable to find what the heck it should be. I’m thinking about Guy Debors “La société du Spectacle” which was in its cinematic form cut from any sense at half the duration with a little text saying roughly “oops we are doing a conventional movie when we are trying to contest the whole of conventions, so we’ll stop making sense now before it’s too late” which was kinda typical of French sixties post intellectualism or whatever it was they were proclaiming to be that particular day.

I’m also thinking about “slaughtered vomit dolls” some inept little flick where incompetence and stupidity of the whole cast and crew was somehow transcended into a higher meaning when seen with the right eyes; to the mundane observer it was indeed just a collection of mongrels vomiting blood in close-up. I’m used to find meaning everywhere : japan noodles ads, French contemporary art, my own shopping list written in short hand (and believe me, trying to reread myself is a mystical experience in its own right), but here I’m stalling.

There’s also green plush, in the form a jolly if somewhat disheveled furry in green frock, looking like a perverted cookie monster, usually just being there wanking under his costume, like a colorful counterpart to the bleak surroundings. Not aggressive, not helping either, it just hangs out there, following the protagonist like a faithful dog. Who he is? What is he? There are answers during the course of the movie, but they bring up some more questions.

There are flashbacks about adultery, seemingly involving an Alabama hot pocket (if you don’t know what that is you’re a lucky one; Knowledge is a burden), and the green thing might be guilt, culpability, repressed memories, it might also not make sense. The idea of reality is something to be completely forgotten when seeing this. Is what I call a flashback a real one or just another hallucination? Is the green stranger the only echo of what is reality in this twisted scenery? Then, why the alpacas? What are they doing on the farm? Is this really a farm anyway? And can someone explain to me the omelet?

There is however one key, to understand the whole. Two words appearing from time to time: Live It.

And that’s basically what it’s all about, it’s more of an experiment than a movie, on what I don’t know, on who it’s easy : the spectators. That’s the reason no amount of words I can spread on this paper will deliver any justice to the movie. I’m even starting to believe we don’t have the semantic tools to discuss that kind of work outside of its medium.

It has to be experienced, not read about.

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Aladdin Sarsippius (9 years ago) Reply

Meanwhile you tube is bursting with World War Z on scene cam trailers.
Aye aye aye


Aladdin Sarsippius (9 years ago) Reply

A.O,..Could you do this review over again?

In jolly old English this time?



Michael Allen (9 years ago) Reply

I think you meant liter, litre in: "the countryside losing blood by the litter without noticing." I recently saw Valhalla Rising, so I know how confusing and frustrating existentialist films can be. Vikings on LSD? Really? It was weird. Interesting review.


chuck (9 years ago) Reply

OK you got me. This sounds like one of those films you leave on repeat all day. I want this so bad! The director says he doesn't want to release it on DVD because he doesn't want it marketed as horror. I hope it gets released in some way. Maybe direct download for a small fee? That way he can control the marketing and still get the film seen.


RalphLockwood (9 years ago) Reply

Can't unsee that sleep will be interrupted with nightmares from looks like a feature length "Porcupine Tree" projection. Disturbing as all get out......ugh


Hal (9 years ago) Reply

It looks awesome.


Anonymous (9 years ago) Reply

who cares how they market it as long as it gets seen.


Anonymous (9 years ago) Reply

this review must be a complete reflection of the film


emily (9 years ago) Reply

can someone please tell me how this ends?? i had to leave the theater about 15 minutes from the end and really want to know...


uncleB (9 years ago) Reply

I just watched this on HULU and loved it!

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