Well, we're edging dangerously close to the Halloween season and I STILL haven't found an ideal candidate for "best horror film of 2011." Frankly, most of the best films I've seen this year have been at the local arthouse... all sorts of films that skirt around the genre, delivering exploitation excellence without quite serving as "horror" films themselves. I'm thinking of such films as SUPER, HOBO WITH A SHOTGUN, TROLLHUNTER and ATTACK THE BLOCK (hey, at least those last two are "monster" movies, so maybe I'll linger around there)... and now here comes BELLFLOWER.
It's neither a horror film nor a post-apocalyptic adventure, but fans of those genres (especially the latter) simply have to take note of it, as BELLFLOWER wouldn't exist without some very specific predecessors. The bulk of the film is set in contemporary California (the title refers to the avenue on which our protagonists live, nothing more) and follows the exploits of long-time best friends Woodrow (writer/director Evan Glodell) and Aiden (Tyler Dawson), who have come up with a brilliant plan for their future... when the apocalypse hits, wouldn't it just be great if they could dominate the landscape with their super-charged car and home-made flamethrower... just like in the MAD MAX movies? (I have no idea how these guys support themselves and afford all of their fancy equipment--it just has to be taken for granted that they do, because it's not the point of the film.) Their lives proceed to take complicated turns when they make the acquaintance of best friends Milly (Jessie Wiseman) and Courtney (Rebekah Brandes) over a nightclub "geekshow" competition involving the eating of live crickets (I saw no proof that this was done for real, so I'm not going to go all PETA on you just yet).
Discovering that they both live to act purely on impulse, Woodrow goes off on a spree with Milly, while the abandoned Aiden starts to get better acquainted with Courtney and her friends... yes, you see, it's a human drama with no supernatural/futuristic elements whatsoever, and it's quite amusing for a while... but pure hell results, nevertheless--it results both from the inevitable consequences of said "impulsive" actions AND the deadly realization that these characters start to EXPECT things from each other...
The entire film is drenched in an oily "post-nuke" glow, often with schmutz directly on the camera lens--much of the film's content may seem familiar, but it's done in a unique and absorbing style all the same. This film-festival "favorite" wasn't loved by everybody--I've heard that plenty of patrons were infuriated by the film's ending. Well, hell, with that, I was expecting something utterly stupid to happen. It doesn't. The film simply offers more than one path... one or both may be the hallucination of a damaged brain, but surely it isn't asking too much for a viewer to decide for himself how things really went down?
BELLFLOWER is harsh, inventive filmmaking and is well worth your attention.
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This played down at Asheville, NC's ActionFest this past year, but it was one of the films we unfortunately didn't make it to. (It's difficult to see everything you want during festivals!) However, they did have the actual car there, during runs around the theater parking lot! I'm looking forward to finally checking the film out once it hits disc.