Tag Archives: 2023

APOCRYPHA CANDIDATE: FUZZY HEAD (2023)

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DIRECTED BY: Wendy McColm

FEATURING: Wendy McColm, Alicia Witt, Jonathan Tolliver

PLOT: Pursued by the police, Marla is dogged by memories as she attempts to get a grip on what happened after a fateful evening at her mother’s home.

WHY IT MIGHT JOIN THE APOCRYPHA: Presented as a thriller, McColm’s intensely personal film explores guilt and inter-generational trauma in a style reminiscent of Lynch, Tarantino, Fincher, and even . Thus equipped with its own storytelling tool-kit, Fuzzy Head shifts gears faster than you can say “unreliable narrator.”

COMMENTS: From what Marla can piece together, her mother is dead. The fact that she has not slept in almost a week doesn’t help her understanding of the situation. It also doesn’t help that she’s faced years of emotional abuse from mom, interrupted by moments of emotional clarity and ineffable love. Marla’s own tragedy consists of her being forced to cope with oblique hints from her mother, “a woman who was never heard in her pain.” McColm translates the disorientation of “fuzzy head”—a semi-clinical condition whose symptoms include problems with focus, memory, and logic, often stemming from a sense of hopelessness, worthlessness, and guilt—onto the screen with intensity at times, softness at others, absurdity, despair, sympathy, and humor. All the while, they thread a narrative whose focus is woven from muddled tatters into a crystalline whole.

Blank asks Marla, “What happened to your mother?” Marla is screaming, flailing; Blank is her best—and only—friend. Marla wants to kill her mother. Perhaps Marla did. Police have questions, but not as the string of faceless therapists Marla endures as she attempts to discover what happened that one night, and what has happened her entire life. Her brain snaps back to a memory of triumph: firing a six-shooter into the air when she successfully rides her bicycle without training wheels. Her mother stands by proudly. Her brain snaps back to a memory of debasement: being forced to walk across the shards of a kitchen glass she dropped. Her mother stands by in disgust. Marla’s memories crash upon her as she navigates her life, waking up in a cheap motel serviced by a strangely insistent housekeeper. Memories mingle with present-day experience, and she doesn’t always know what’s real, particularly when interacting with Blank.

For those out there baying for symbolism, Fuzzy Head comes up aces. On her journey toward redemption, Marla’s dreams give her access the worst parts of her self and her experience. A sign to hang on her door for the maid. A key dangling from Blank’s rear-view mirror. The six shooter she buys back from a sympathetic local (“I think I killed my mother with that gun”, she admits; “Yeah, we all feel that way sometimes,” the seller replies). Lynchian touches include a theremin solo in an empty nightclub. Tarantino time-loops and snap-cuts keep up the pace. Fincheristic perception-humor takes the edge off when events become too stinging. And the cast of recurring, unreal-maybe-real personae bring to mind the continuous efforts of the guardian angels secreted in Jacob’s Ladder.

Fuzzy Head is a stylish and stylized film. Pondering the influences, Wendy McColm might be accused by some as being derivative. Not by me. As with just about any and all filmmakers, the methods they use are lifted (and altered) from those who came before. Indeed, the last “new” movie I remember seeing came out in 1991. The directors I’ve mentioned have developed a language of cinema for those of us who are frightened, disoriented, confused, and amused, and Wendy McColm’s second feature film shows an already mature storyteller finessing to convey “fuzzy head”: desperate sadness, acute loneliness, and traces of confused amusement. In so doing, McColm tells a decidedly personal story in such a way that spectators like ourselves can look on with satisfaction.

No word on Fuzzy Head‘s post-festival distribution plans at the moment; we’ll let you know when we know more.

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

“…a hauntingly beautiful and surreal exploration of childhood trauma… a strangely affecting and expressive feature with a heavy emotional core.” -Brian Fanelli, Horror Buzz (contemporaneous)

SLAMDANCE 2023: ANIMATION SHORTS

366 Weird Movies may earn commissions from purchases made through product links.The prospect of reviewing animation is always alluring, but perhaps never more so than when the Slamdance film festival rolls around. Alternately dream-like and nightmarish as a general rule, this year’s slate bends considerably more toward the abstract and absurd—and as such were a particular treat. I highly recommend you invest in access to these fine additions to the “cartoon” canon, with a particular shout-out for Frank Volk and his ad-blitz bombastic “Hotdogs!”, which has the visual and narrative chops to pull on the heartstrings, induce plenty of chuckles, and squeeze in a seamless mention of dialectical materialism.

And without further ado, the Animation Shorts ’23 showcase!

Arrest in Flight (dir. Adrian Flury; 8 min.)—Candy-colored props and sets are put to unsettling use through an ambient-industrial-choral score and jerky animations—as if the mechanized legs, kitchen chairs, and “people” are being sliced in and out of time. Flury’s dissection of modern life, with all its repetitions and tipping points, hypnotizes the eyes and ears, making even a flippant optimist like myself all too apprehensive.

Babe Beach (dir. Ida Lasic; 8 min.)—Some social commentary from Croatia, with a (top) half-fish / (bottom) half-human beach guide. ’90s polygons and ’80s neon are on proud display as a couple of beach-bum tourists ask a not-quite-local about the benefits of tourism. Visually pleasing, wryly humorous, and remarkably salient.

Baloney Beacon (dir. Max Landman; 6 min.)—Stop-motion using balloons is a gimmick I had never before laid eyes upon. The effect was unsettling. Cosmic creatures are overrun by a death-ray emitted by a hungry god of a tiny planet, who then consumes his prey. Top marks for originality, tone, and medium.

Don’t Die on Me (dir. Ori Goldberg; 3 min.)—A couple of guys on a park bench sharing a doobie frame this scattered narrative, but I would remiss if I did not share the content warning: quintessence mucous. Ori Goldberg animates this quick, spiritual exploration of mucous in a George Grosz style, and does not shy away from the general unpleasantness of nose-related usage. Some sick humor.

Horse (dir. Diana Gong; 4 min.)—RAM trucks, sunsets, and a claymation horse sporting pretty eyelashes. The methods of “mixed media” never fail to keep my attention. Diana Gong combines live video, clay, tissue paper, and a little computer noodling to talk about masculinity, ideals, infidelity, and doubtless a bit more. While there is always something moving onscreen, it never overwhelms, and it almost feels like one of the more abstract interludes I remember Continue reading SLAMDANCE 2023: ANIMATION SHORTS