DVD Review: MAKE OUT WITH VIOLENCE
Simply put, Make Out With Violence is one of the most unique and original American independents of the past few years and is one of this critic's own personal favorites of late. This is the debut film of the Deagol Brothers, an anonymous group of filmmakers and artists working under a collective pseudonym in Tennessee. It's a difficult movie to describe and even harder to pitch. I've already programmed it in one festival and am now set to host its Philadelphia premiere next week and creating promotional materials has been a challenging endeavor. Both the title and tagline are misleading. Seriously, promoting a film called Make Out With Violence when there is in fact, very little violence has been a real bitch. It either turns away the people who'd appreciate it while also reeling in the wrong crowd. And giving a plot synopsis is sure to set false expectations, but here goes.
Make Out With Violence is a zombie romance coming of age film. On paper, it sounds ridiculous and silly. But this isn't some post modern genre mash up for the blogger set. This is a heartfelt and melancholy drama that cleverly uses genre elements to a different end. Maybe the film's festival run was too close to Dead Girl as the initial set up is quite similar. Perhaps Dead Girl's nihilistic go for broke satire soaked up all the press and controversy. Or was it Harry Knowles' complete dismissal of the film after its SXSW premiere that caused this to pass by unnoticed? Let's face it; the guy's got power when it comes to shifting fan boys' anticipation for upcoming films.
Tonally, MOWV is far closer to The Virgin Suicides than it is to Zombieland or something like Otis and The Revenant. One would do better imagining a cross between River's Edge, Days of Heaven, and Sixteen Candles. It may be a bold statement to compare this to one of Terrence Malick's masterworks but it's not complete hyperbole.
Set during one hazy summer, the film follows twin brothers and recent high school graduates, Carol and Patrick. Their younger brother, Beetle provides a loose narration that's reminiscent of Linda in Days of Heaven. We learn in the opening scenes that Patrick's high school crush, Wendy disappeared months ago and has been recently declared deceased by the state. The brothers tend her mock wedding and try to come to terms with her supposed departure. During a walk in the woods, Carol and Beetle find Wendy's animated corpse tied between two trees. It's a haunting image and the unanswered questions makes things all the more unsettling. We never learn how she got there.
Carol and Beetle bring Wendy's body home and decide to keep her around until they can fully process the situation and make a rational plan of action. Unfortunately, this gives Patrick an opportunity to fulfill his unrequited love for the woman he never had a chance with when she was alive. The film hints at some queasy and uncomfortable notions, but it never goes for exploitation or gross necrophilia jokes.
During all of this, Carol gets involved in a love triangle with best friends Addy and Anne Haran, leaving Patrick alone to tend to his sick obsession. Things build and escalate to one of the most powerful and memorable endings this critic has seen in a long time.
Not without some awkward scenes and pieces, there's some incredibly strong writing and acting at play here. You'll never fully forget that you're watching a low budget debut film but there are moments of startlingly authenticity that feel as though they could easily be home in any of John Hughes' best work. These are fully fleshed out characters and the film does an expert job of capitalizing on teen nostalgia while telling an adult tale.
This is a film about the pains of growing up and growing apart from those who we were close with, and for the some that are incapable of moving on and maturing.
There are times when the film strives for indie quirk ala Wes Anderson and Napoleon Dynamite, and these scenes may split many viewers. It's my only real gripe with the movie. Characters writing down clever lists that cue cute and colorful montages may be enough to piss off some of the more hardcore fans out there. But in the film's defense, the more contrived moments of humor does help to break the tension and makes everything a little more accessible for mainstream audiences. This is the fucked up genre film you can safely watch with the significant other who despises fucked up genre films and both deeply enjoy.
And let's not forget the soundtrack. The film features an original score by Nashville indie rock band, The Non Commissioned Officers. The music plays a key role and is just as much of a prominent character as Wendy, Carol, and Patrick. I'm not enough of an indie rock kid to properly describe the band's sound. For me, it is reminiscent to the folksy, eclectic vibe of Broken Social Scene. While there are addictively catchy up tempo tunes, the majority of the music helps paint a more bittersweet, melancholy tone. Again, think of the way Sofia Coppola utilized Air for the soundtrack to The Virgin Suicides.
I'm not going to waste too much more space on giving a detailed breakdown of the extras. In short, there's a lot packaged in here for a small indie. The Deagols and Factory 25 have released a great disc that should interest aspiring film makers and film lovers. There's an engaging and captivating story buried within the 30 minute making of doc and other BTS extras. As most indie features, this was a passion project for a group of close friends, a five year long passion project. The film was shot during two separate summers with a year gap in between and took another two years to edit and prepare for the its festival run. You can see the tension in the interviews. This was a project that broke strong bonds. What happens in the film was mirrored on set in many ways and this is something any indie filmmaker who's worked with friends is going to be able to relate to.
In addition to the 2+ hour soundtrack created for the film by the Non Commissioned Officers, the DVD features deleted tunes created by another band and over a dozen deleted scenes with full commentary.
I hope Factory 25 does the film justice as there's definitely a market for this and it deserves to find it. Heads up, fellow ScreenAnarchy Readers, this is well worth seeking out.
The Hell Fire Film Club will be hosting the Philadelphia premiere of Make Out With Violence on Tuesday, October 19th at 9pm with a live performance by The Non Commissioned Officers at Bob and Barbara's Lounge. 1509 South St.