October 22, 2011 -- Two guys who are fans of the “Mad Max” movies build a terminator muscle car that shoots flames out of its exhaust pipes. They also build a flame thrower just for fun. Their dream is to tour the country like “Lord Humungus” (a character from the second Mad Max film, “Road Warrior”). They end up as low-rent criminals in a seedy Los Angeles neighborhood, still yearning for the Apocalypse. The only Apocalypse that arrives is their own, not the end of the world. Along their journey there is blood, violence and sex scenes worthy of a porn movie.
“Bellflower” has the look of a cross between an experimental art film and a grindhouse movie, complete with creatively distressed video images. In addition to a chronological storyline, there are time loops and alternative realities thrown in for good measure. At the center of the story is the relationship between two young friends from Wisconsin who are living in Los Angeles, Woodrow (played by Evan Glodell, who is also the writer, director and a producer of this film) and Aiden (Tyler Dawson). Although Woodrow is heterosexual, their friendship appears to be, at least as far as Aiden is concerned, the strongest love relationship in the film.
The film opens with Woodrow and Aiden working on a flame thrower and talking about Lord Humungus. Not only do these two seem to have nothing better to do that blow up propane tanks with a sawed-off shotgun (looks like fun) but they have no visible means of support. They don't seem to have jobs. Maybe they are living off trust fund money. They seem to be happy enough blowing stuff up, but soon something is added to this twosome, complicating matters. Woodrow falls in love with a pretty young girl, Milly (Jessie Wiseman) while Aiden is drawn to Milly's friend, Courtney (Rebekah Brandes). Woodrow's heart is broken when he is betrayed, starting a cycle of blood and revenge, accompanied by Apocalyptic imagery. I'm not giving away anything here. All this stuff is telegraphed in the first few seconds of the film in some flash-forward scene snippets.
When Woodrow is injured in an accident, the ever-faithful Aiden gets to work to build him a terminator muscle car worthy of Mad Max, or Lord Humungus. When Aiden proudly shows off the flame-throwing car called Medusa (named after a fanciful “Mother Medusa” gang of the future) he built for his friend, Woodrow turns away, saying the flames remind him of his lost love. The last chapter of the film is filled with flashbacks and alternate versions of key events. There may be murders and suicides, or not. You can make up your own ending for this movie from the bits and pieces provided by it. Complicating matters are a brain injury to Woodrow and the fact that the two main characters are drunk or stoned or both every minute of the film. Given the chemically challenged mental state of Woodrow and Aiden, the whole story is suspect. The film is split into titled chapters, like “All Things End” and “Nobody Gets Out of Here Alive.” It isn't a believable film, but rather it represents a kind of mythic vision.
The unusual look of the film is due, in part, to a camera system built by Glodell himself out of old camera parts combined with a mini digital camera. Glodell calls it a “Coatwolf Model II.” One of the camera operators, Joel Hodge, also helped to edit the film and appeared in the film as an actor. Another camera operator, Jonathon Keevil, wrote and performed several songs on the film's soundtrack. This is a very low-budget independent film, but it looks a lot more expensive than it is. The film was acquired by Oscilloscope Laboratories shortly after it premiered at the Sundance Film Festival. It compares favorably to some similarly-themed mainstream movies such as “Grindhouse.” The film's depiction of modern, pathless, self-destructive American youths is as intriguing as its over-the-top sex and violence. This film rates a B.
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