Saturday, October 27, 2012

Fish Out of Water

For the last several years, I've traveled to Ypsilanti, Michigan to attend a big horror movie party. My friend who throws this party is a true horror fan, who studies the genre like some kind of Talmudic scholar. She finds real obscurities. This year, she and her partner in crime went out of their way to get movies that weren't in release anywhere. Such a film is Weaverfish, which kicked off her party. It's a first film still looking for a distributor.

Weaverfish (2012, directed by Harrison Wall) is a lugubrious leg through aquatic horror. It follows a fairly stock cast of young people onto the island surrounding a closed-up refinery where a child disappeared eight years prior. Once there, they run afoul of the various interpersonal problems that beset young people, have a party on the beach, and go swimming. The kids who wade into the water develop a severe sickness and a ghastly rash. The rash, it seems, is some kind of mutation, but into what are the kids mutating? The narrator of the film is Reese, a shy kid who's into photography. He doesn't like the water, so he escapes the horror of a mutating body. He's sweet on Charlotte, who also chooses not to go swimming. Charlotte, for her part, is going out with Matt, Reese's callow best friend. She's got serious buyer's remorse for this relationship, and has finally noticed Reese. This conflict informs their actions once the contagion takes hold of their friends. And one by one, their friends begin to disappear, abducted from the island by men in clean suits and gas masks. Things look dire...

The premise of Weaverfish reminds me a bit of H. P. Lovecraft's obsession with ichthyological monstrosities and half-breed mutants, though without the Spook of Providence's broader cosmic insignificance. It mates these horrors with the bickering concerns of a group of mostly undifferentiated young people out for a party. In this regard, these characters aren't much different from the characters in any number of other horror movies. This movie makes the mistake of focusing on these characters for a disproportionate amount of its running time. It takes its sweet time finding its big idea. Too long, in my humble opinion. It's a badge of how much of a mistake this is that I'm unable to tell you how many characters there are on the island, and, indeed who many of them are in relation to each other. Only the main triangle is distinctive, though the guy with the blonde dreadlocks stands out on the strength of visual image. I found myself wanting many of these characters to die gruesome deaths (particularly Matt, the callow best friend). Never a good sign in a movie that aspires to be a "character driven" story. In truth, the first two acts drag.

The last act, though, is pretty good. Once the film abandons the indie drama, it comes to life. The first overt special effect comes after a long build-up of interpersonal drama. The effect of this reminds me of a Philip Glass symphony I once heard where the a key change after forty minutes of minimalist droning comes as a complete shock. The effect itself, in which a slit opens on a suspicious rash, is not of itself particularly amazing. It's the change of key. When the film's Maguffin became manifestly clear, I kind of wished that Weaverfish had embraced a more pulpy sensibility, but it is what it is, I guess. Its not a bad movie by any means, but it has a bad identity crisis.

Current tally: 21 films.
15 first time viewings.

From Around the Web

Dr. AC at Horror 101 has a bunch of dubious pleasures in his latest summary.

Woodyfanon has a summary of her third week of October at She Hang Brightly.

Eric over at Expelled Grey Matter encounters evil with Tucker and Dale.

Tim over at The Other Side develops a Crush.

Andreas at Pussy Goes Grrr has a Halloween-y link dump.

DeAnna over at All Things Perfect and Poisonous finds the lighter side of the challenge in her look at Troll Hunter.

Bob over at The Eternal Sunshine of the Logical Mind has two more posts, including another dispatch from Toronto After Dark, as well as a roundup of his other viewings, including one of your humble bloginatrix's favorite movies, The Curse of the Crying Woman.

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