“You goin’ to hell for this shit, dawg, you know that?”
Joel Potrykus steps up his stylistic chops while retaining his empathetic characterisation of the fringe in this hilarious then disturbing story of the ways in which we often perpetuate our own miseries.
Tye Hickson (of Gimme the Loot) plays Sean, a perhaps mentally imbalanced young man living in the woods with his cat. He spends his days reading from a strange, occult notebook, doing experiments, and eating Doritos. Occasionally, he’s visited by family member of some sort, Cortez (Amari Cheatom, amazing in just three scenes) (seriously, his last scene shows an incredible range of comedy and terror) who delivers groceries and meds. Gradually, we come to realise that Sean may be trying to summon a demon. Whether what happens next is a true supernatural event or just the unraveling of Sean’s mind is a point of contention, but all that matters is that the descent into hell feels real and legitimately creepy.
Hickson mostly gives a one man show here, and he tackles a difficult role with aplomb, starting just far enough from madness to engender empathy without ever letting the audience forget that he’s perhaps past the point of help. And even as the film becomes increasingly haunting (there are a few scenes that recall The Blair Witch Project and Resolution in their ability to show just enough of the horrors to get us on edge), Potrykus never loses sight of his rhythms and fixations. There’s still scenes of characters eating with abandon, or heavy metal blasting out of cassette players, and of static, deep focus shots of people arguing in circles.
That’s they key to what makes this work, I think. Despite the turn towards psychological horror (with some really fantastic and sparingly used effects work), this is still a story primarily about the destructive powers of humanity, not the supernatural. Regardless of the veracity of the monsters in Sean’s woods, he’s the one dragging them into his world again and again, even as he recognises their damage. Is it because he’s gone too far to stop now? Is it because he knows it’s unstoppable? Or is it because he has based his identity on his self-destruction for so long that fixing himself feels like an erasure of the self?
Whatever the answer, I loved this movie.