In the new indie film "Bellflower," friends Woodrow (played by writer and director Evan Glodell) and Aiden (Tyler Dawson) have an unusual hobby. After growing up obsessing over movies like "Mad Max," they decide to build their own flamethrower and a fire-spurting muscle car with a fantasy to rule a post-apocalyptic world as the gang "Mother Medusa."
When Woodrow meets the beautiful, impulsive Milly (Jessie Wiseman) during a cricket-eating contest at a bar, he falls fast and hard for her. The film starts out quirky, artistic and even downright charming. Woodrow takes Milly on a road trip to a seedy restaurant in Texas for their first date. They live in L.A., mind you. Aiden gives Milly's friend a fruitcake for her birthday, stating that by the time Christmas comes he'll know her well enough to get her something she'll actually like. But it quickly devolves into an anarchy of emotions, unraveling chaos of betrayal and violence as Woodrow's world, as he knows it, ends.
Three things we liked about the movie:
1. In a summer of shallow spectacle, it's a pleasure to see a movie that has something actually going on behind the scenes. Every frame drips with creeping dread, exploding into the apocalyptic emotional horror of betrayal and loss. Like "Fight Club," "Bellflower" becomes an angry allegory on the confusion and angst of modern masculinity. While most movies are forgotten by the time you reach your car, "Bellflower" will linger.
2. Writer/director/producer/editor/star Evan Glodell is destined to be an indie powerhouse in years to come. He stretches the shoestring budget to the breaking point, carrying the film on his shoulders with clarity and staggering audacity. His direction is fearless.
3. "Bellflower" sports an extremely stylized look, created through refreshingly analog means. Glodell built the film's camera from scratch, and cinematographer Joel Hodge puts it to the test, using every selective focus trick up his sleeve to create a truly unique vision. And we'd be remiss if we didn't mention the pure awesomeness of Medusa, the smoke-breathing, fire-spewing muscle car monster that provides the film's most memorable imagery.
The thing we disliked about the movie:
1. When so many movies nowadays suffer from being focus-grouped to death, it's almost refreshing to see a movie that doesn't try to appeal to the widest audience possible. That being said, many people will not find the second half of this movie enjoyable. The characters, although they seem to be interesting at first, turn out to be nothing but booze-soaked, chain smoking losers who look like they just reek of body odor. They're horrible people who sit around being miserable for a very long-seeming 106 minutes, learn nothing and change very little. So if that's not your idea of a good time at the movies, this one might not be for you.
All in all, there's more to "Bellflower" than meets the eye. On the surface, it's an unpleasant break-up film about characters who seemingly contribute nothing to society. But if you look at it from the perspective of the characters, particularly the ones with delusions of apocalyptic grandeur, there's nothing left of society in which to contribute. So that makes sense. If you think about it, the tone and structure mirror the "Mad Max" films. We get that. The low-budget technical achievements are masterfully handled. We appreciate that.
We'd just rather appreciate it over there, far away from us.
• Pax Whitmore contributed to this report.
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