A very long, bizarre movie, feels like the script was written by a distracted conspiracy theorist then it was was filmed completely straightfaced by dedicated (but low-budget) actors and craftsmen armed with heavy giallo lighting.

Opens with a massive fake rant about yuppie culture on 60 Minutes, then our man Trent sees himself inside the TV preview for The Hand That Rocks The Cradle. Outside, a maniac in a hairpiece is wrapping a dead woman in foil. I think this is Trent’s brother, but Trent complains to his wife about “your brother-in-law,” which is a strange way to refer to your own brother. After the brother(-in-law) sexually harasses a woman whose Secret Service ex-boyfriend then runs him over repeatedly in an alley while a lumpy pink alien look on, I realized I needed to let go of basic things like the characters’ identities and relationships.

“Get her some coffee, some cocaine, anything left over from the 80’s.” If the Mr. Robot guy can win an oscar for portraying Freddie Mercury, then Damon Packard can fill his movie with sub-cable actors and claim they’re major celebrities. Julia Roberts crashes on Trent’s couch for six months, Sade rehearses next to Rush, a hitman is sent after Bono, Dick Cheney takes orders from Johnny Carson’s band leader Doc Severinsen, William Friedkin gets mad that nobody wants to see his movie The Guardian, and Janet Jackson is married to one of Trent’s fellow Illuminati members.

This is all aimed at people slightly older than me, who saw Sleeping With the Enemy in theaters and got upset when Rush rapped on a 1991 single. Have I mentioned that it’s long? Every scene goes on for a small eternity, with repetitive dialogue, though sometimes the sound mixer will amuse himself by randomly pitch-shifting an actor, or blatantly dubbing in completely different lines, or an actor’s face will get Black Hole Sunned. The song Ice Ice Baby is being used for mind control, the movie New Jack City sparks riots (the rioters simply chanting “new jack city!”)… even this movie has multiple titles. The whole vibe is cool and unusual, chase scenes through empty Hollywood streets in the middle of the night with 1991 movie posters photoshopped onto the billboards, cheap direct-to-video effects combined with creative production design and an indecipherable story. I’ve long been tempted to rent Packard’s Reflections of Evil, which sounds similarly demented (but is very, very long); there’s also the 1982-set sci-fi feature Foxfur, the hour-long SpaceDisco One, and the twenty minute fake-trailer Dawn of an Evil Millennium, and I should watch all of these – even if they’re “bad,” they’re also exactly the kinds of movies I always aspired to make.

The “stars” are Ashley Judd (Frida, Heat) as a hopeless burnout and Harry Connick Jr. (Excess Baggage, Mad About The Mouse) as her abusive ex just out of jail, but the star performance here is by Michael Shannon as a single dude who shows up one day wanting to be Ashley’s friend and ending up in bed with her.

right: H.C. Jr.
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That’s when the part I knew from the trailer kicks in… new dude (Peter) sees bugs. They are in the hotel room, in the air and under their skin. He watches ’em with a kids’ microscope, sprays the place constantly and talks about the secret government project that unleashed the bugs upon him, while Ashley confides about her missing son and bad husband, and clings more and more to Peter.

Turns out there are (probably) no bugs – Peter is a bug-crazy paranoid lunatic, and Ashley is so love-desperate she starts to see what he sees. At the end after Peter knifes his doctor who comes to talk sense into him, he easily convinces Ashley they should set themselves on fire.

Doctor threatened with knife! Peter all bloody! Walls covered in tinfoil!
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Movie looks real good. Not particularly tense or scary, but the crazy, oh there is so much good crazy. Camera stays on our heroes, gets shaky and blue when Peter hallucinates helicopter-spies. Based on a play – no surprise there, given the movie’s single location (not counting a few flashbacks). As for Friedkin, he made French Connection, Exorcist, then ten+ movies that everyone’s either forgotten or wish they had forgotten. This is a good adaptation, an exciting movie, but nobody oughtta claim the Second Coming of Freidkin unless he pulls it off again.

Ashley’s head hurts from looking at imaginary bugs
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