Tribeca 2024 Review: VULCANIZADORA, When Buddy Movie Turns Into Existential Horror

Contributing Writer
Tribeca 2024 Review: VULCANIZADORA, When Buddy Movie Turns Into Existential Horror

Two men are making their way through the forest, engaging in idle talk and generally behaving like overgrown teenagers. The guys will be recognized by viewers familiar with Joel Potrykus’s 2014 film Buzzard – as these are the same Derek (played by Potrykus himself) and Marty (his constant collaborator Joshua Burge) from the story about a rebellion against society in the form of petty scams.

Ten years have passed, not only in real life, but also in Potrykus’ onscreen universe, and time and life have not been kind to his characters. Derek, as we find out, was married and had a son but is now divorced and estranged from his family, while Marty is in more trouble with the law than he’s ever been before. The reasoning behind their trip into nature, filled with nonsensical banter, is undisclosed for some time – and it’s better to just leave it at that.

As is probably already obvious, Vulcanizadora, which is participating in Tribeca’s US Narrative competition, benefits from the audience being familiar with the director Joel Potrykus’ body of work, style and thematic preferences. That doesn’t mean his new film cannot be enjoyed or understood without it; narrative-wise, it’s absolutely self-sufficient. Emotionally, though, you just get more from this story when having the context of the director’s universe, filled with human beings who are profoundly lonely and outcast, all wrapped in a cover of a dark comedy bordering on existential horror.

Aesthetically, Vulcanizadora also offers a familiar look: a super-low budget production with the bursts of metal for the soundtrack, but this time shot in beautiful 16 mm and featuring opera excerpts. The complication of the form signifies not only the evolution of the style. It shows the transformation of the heroes and their relationship with the world, which was bleak to begin with. The same goes for the film’s narrative; there is a definitive tonal shift at a certain point when a forming buddy movie ventures into a much darker territory.

The dark, deadpan and often absurdist humor is still there, in the form of Marty’s father, the visual of Marty with a shovel, and a grimly funny conversation about Florida that he has with Derek’s kid (played by Solo Potrykus, the director’s son). But there is also this profound feeling of senselessness of both life and death that makes even the funny moments seem more thoughtful.

Throughout the festival, there seems to be this curious undercurrent of a topic – a conversation about what it means to be a supposed grown-up. The general gist is that you don’t necessarily have to stop behaving like a child after a certain age, but just have to acknowledge that now everything comes with consequences and paying the due. Potrykus’ film is probably the grimmest exploration of this idea among the selection, as it shows the world as so apathetic and indifferent, it is no longer interested in even that.

The film enjoys its world premiere at the 2024 Tribeca Festival. It screens again this afternoon and also on Thursday, June 13. 

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Joel PotrykusJoshua BurgeTribeca 2024Tribeca Festival

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