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At this year’s Sundance Film Festival, Calvin Lee Reader‘s The Oregonian got the type of reception horror fans savor: massive walkouts. In a genre where repellent imagery is always welcome—mouth to anus, anyone?—this reaction is often touted as a badge of honor, a slab of red meat to true believers akin to Republican Presidential hopefuls calling Social Security “a Ponzi scheme.” If you can’t stomach it, there’s the door. Yet, it’s more likely the exodus in Utah stemmed from sheer tedium rather than indignant outrage. Screening tonight as a part of The Sixth Annual Spooky Movie Film Festival at Artisphere, the 11:50 p.m. showtime is likely to inspire more snoring than sprinting.
The film opens with a nameless protagonist (True Blood‘s Lindsay Pulsipher) emerging from a bloody car wreck in a world she doesn’t recognize. Or does she? The scene’s use of “Pomp and Circumstance” is the first indicatation that Reader’s vision is one of unrelenting incongruity, an attempt to achieve the oft-kilter ambiance of oddball auteur David Lynch. It doesn’t have to make sense if it’s creepy, right? The Oregonian even goes so far as to repurpose some of Lynch’s aesthetic hallmarks: long shots of highway, obtuse dialogue (“these trees have a code”), and a desolate woodland setting. This would be forgivable—if not particularly memorable—had Reader bothered to sketch out a story as oppossed to employing directionless stock characters by way of Mulholland Drive. Incomprehensible hillbillies peeing Gatorade? Check. Meanicing middle-aged women laughing uncontrollably? A must. The less said about the man in the fuzzy green costume, the better. Young directors take note: If one must follow in Lynch’s distinct path, Inland Empire is not the film to emulate.
The actors hardly fare much better. Underneath a cloak of corn syrup, Pulsipher squeaks her distress but is mostly as dazed as the audience. “I can’t even remember fucking nothing!” she screeches upon entering a kitschy abandoned home. After 81 minutess, it’s hard not to envy her
The film screens at 11:50 p.m. at Artisphere. $8.