Tag Archives: Neurotic



FEATURING: Edward Hogg, Simon Farnaby, Verónica Echegui

PLOT: An agoraphobic young man remembers (or hallucinates) a trip he took across Europe with his hard-drinking, sexually voracious, gambling-addicted pal Bunny.

Still from Bunny and the Bull (2009)

WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LIST:  It’s a mildly surreal comedy that’s in the weird ballpark, but it’s not nearly unhinged enough to make the List on weirdness alone, and too uneven to be counted among the best weird movies ever made.

COMMENTS: Bunny and the Bull begins by introducing us to Stephen Turnbull, an shut-in with severe OCD issues who files his used dental floss and checks the pH of his urine every morning, then shows in flashback how he degenerated from a functioning neurotic to a full-fledged basket case.  An emergency involving rats violating his boxes of hermetically sealed vegetarian lasagna forces him to phone Captain Crab for a takeout meal, unlocking a flood of memories.  The logo on the takeout box inspires Stephen to remember the time he was stood up by a girl he intended to propose to at a Captain Crab.  In the movie’s first anstract sequence, he imagines a restaurant constructed entirely out of painted paper; even the fish swimming in the aquarium are cardboard cutouts.  The motif carries over in the next scene, where an entire horse race is re-enacted with similar animated, spray-painted two-dimensional figures.  These two scenes set up the expectation that the entire movie will carry through this hazy-dream-version-of-a-high-school-play look, but as Stephen and Bunny begin their tour of Europe, subsequent sequences are shot on realistic looking sets, though sometimes employing blurry rear-projection or other random visual trickery.  Then, halfway through the movie the cinematographer pulls out a new look: a world full of gleaming brass CGI clockwork contraptions.  The different visual signatures each look great on their own, but the schizophrenic hopping about from one to another makes you wonder if they switched art directors halfway through film, then ran out of money in the special effects budget.  Bunny‘s visuals are frequently likened to those of The Science of Sleep, but that comparison only holds for the cardboard-cutout scenes; the lack of a Continue reading CAPSULE: BUNNY AND THE BULL (2009)


DIRECTED BY: Adam Green and Joel Moore

FEATURING: Joel Moore, Amber Tamblyn, and Zachary Levi

PLOT: A gregarious young professional befriends a complex loner at work and unleashes

madness when she tries to unravel his convoluted personal secrets.

WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LIST: While Spiral tells an offbeat story, it contains no outstanding weirdness, aside from the very odd personality of the lead character and the bizarre nature of his relationships.  In fact, it is the straightforward way in which the story is told that is responsible for its hypnotic feel and impact.

COMMENTS:  Overcast Portland, Oregon locations grace this gloomy and grim, offbeat psychological suspense story about a deeply troubled artist.  Spiral spins the whorled, offbeat portrait of a lead character with an odd personality and  bizarre personal relationships.

Mason (Moore) is a painter working as an insurance telemarketer.  He excels at his job, maintains a nice bachelor pad, and despite his gross social awkwardness and timid appearance he has tremendous luck with the ladies.  In fact, he has had a succession of girlfriends who all pose for his oil and canvas portraits.

Despite all that he has going for him, Mason is tortured and confused.  A shy loner at work, he feels trapped in his overly bright, sterile, corporate cubicle.  The nervous Mason is coiled so tightly that he’s about to spring out of his skin.  To make matters worse, he is prone to asthma flare-ups triggered by extreme night terrors and panic attacks.

Mason harbors more than a few skeletons in his inner footlocker and they are especially grim.  Like malevolent phantasms, dreadful images of his past girlfriends twirl our of his dreams and splash across his conscience like spatter from a centrifuge.  Striking terror, these hit and run specters jar Mason out of deep slumbers, and slap him out of daydreams.  The experiences leave him in a cold, sweaty daze, scrambling for his asthma inhaler with a racing heart.

Mason’s only safety net is his cocky, but empathetic boss, Berkeley (Levi)—who is also his only friend and advocate.  Willing to act as Mason’s ad-hoc therapist, Berkeley is the closest thing Mason has to some much needed Xanax.  Suppressing Mason’s panic with a combination of good-natured ridicule and reassurance, he talks his frightened employee down like Rasputin hypnotically calming Czar Nicholas II’s hemophiliac son.  The effect is temporary, however, as Mason seems to be plagued not only by the serpentine hallucinations, but by a wide range of deeply seated personal issues, all indicating a winding, ganglionic tangle of dark, hidden secrets.

Berkely begins to find his role as counselor diminished when a bubbly new employee named Amber (Tamblyn) jumps on board and takes a shine to Mason.  Inexplicably attracted to the shy salesman, she is like a schoolgirl rescuing a baby bunny.  Intrigued by the dark enigma of Mason’s persona, Amber radiantly circles Mason, determined to unravel his helical psyche by patiently prying away at the repressed layers of his complicated personality.

Mason gradually warms to her efforts and finally admits her to his inner world.   Once inside, Amber wreaks havoc like a Trojan horse when she realizes too late that she has opened a Pandora’s box. But how genuine is Amber?  Is she really who she appears to be?  What does Berkeley know about Mason’s past girlfriends that he isn’t telling Mason?  And why the haunting visions?  As tensions reach the meniscus, unanswered questions brew a churning swirl of fantasy, reality and bedlam as Mason, Amber and Berkeley cross paths in a twisting maelstrom of truth and lies.

Crisp audio processing of the soundtrack compliments the high definition DVD release of this Santa Barbara Film Festival entry. Spiral is the directorial collaboration of Joel David Moore and Adam Green, who worked as actor and director respectively on the 2006 slasher film, Hatchet.   Spiral was co-written by Moore with Jeremy Danial Boreing.  Amber Tamblyn may be known to some viewers from her roles in The Grudge II (2006) and The Ring (2001).


“Like an urban cousin of Jon Keder’s ‘Napoleon Dynamite’ as filtered through Edgar Allen Poe, the disturbed and delusional aspiring artist at the center of ‘Spiral’ promises much terror and delivers far less… Given the sheer weirdness of his character’s neuroses, Moore the actor tries to tamp down the urge for an over-the-top perf…”–Robert Koehler, Variety (contemporaneous)

Spiral trailer

41. I CAN SEE YOU (2008)

“I CAN SEE YOU is a film about the thing that frightens me the most… my own mind… we as sentient human beings are completely at the mercy of an organ that we may never fully understand; an organ that, at the slightest malfunction, can throw our perception of reality into such chaos and confusion that we will never see or experience the world the same way again.”–Graham Reznick, from the Director’s Statement for I Can See You

DIRECTED BY: Graham Reznick

FEATURING: Ben Dickinson, Larry Fessenden,

PLOT:  Ben is a nearsighted, neurotic and painfully shy photographer/artist working for an advertising start-up firm looking to land a huge contract for the ClarActix corporation. The three twenty-something admen organize a camping trip to snap nature photos that can be used in the campaign.  At a campfire hootenanny, Ben meets a beautiful hippie girl he once had a crush on, and his awkward attempts to romance the free-spirited girl lead him to an internal breakdown that manifests itself in a series of unnerving surrealistic montages.

Still from I Can See You (2008)


  • Director Graham Reznick accumulated over a dozen credits on low-budget films in the sound department before helming I Can See You, his first feature film.
  • I Can See You is the fifth in the “Scarefilx” series executive produced by Larry Fessenden (who also appears in the movie as the ClarActix spokesman).  According to its press release, the Scareflix series is “designed to exploit hungry new talent and inspire resourceful filmmakers to produce quality work through seat-of-the-pants ingenuity.”
  • Actors Ben Dickson, Christopher Ford and Duncan Styles, who play the members of the three man advertising firm in the film, are part of Waverly Films, a YouTube based comedy troupe that makes ad parodies, among other sketches.
  • Composer Jeff Grace was an assistant to Howard Shore on The Lord of the Rings films.

INDELIBLE IMAGE:  Relying as it does on the montage style for its unsettling effect, I Can See You is filled with memorable imagery.  The briefly seen double-image of Ben is sublimely creepy, so much so that a variation of it was used for the original movie poster (unhappily abandoned in favor of a forgettable still of Ben shaving for the DVD release).  It’s Ben’s unfinished, faceless portrait of his father, however, which recurs several times in different contexts, that is the film’s most important visual symbol.  If you stare at the painting long enough you can make out tiny indications of eyes and a mouth, which makes the picture even more uncanny than pure blank flesh would be.

WHAT MAKES IT WEIRDI Can See You is one of the trippiest, druggiest movies to come

Official trailer for I Can See You

down the pike since the psychedelic Sixties; the last sequence plays like a twenty-minute, long-take hallucination shot on location inside Ben’s splintered mind.

COMMENTS: I Can See You‘s strategy is to slowly build up a storehouse of images, then Continue reading 41. I CAN SEE YOU (2008)


Must See

DIRECTED BY:  Woody Allen

FEATURING: Woody Allen, Diane Keaton

PLOT:  Neurotic NYC comedian Alvy (Allen) falls in love with would-be cabaret singer

Annie Hall still

Annie Hall (Keaton), but his inability to relax and enjoy life ultimately dooms their relationship.

WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LISTAnnie Hall isn’t weird, at all.  Some people, however, believe it’s weird, and have even tagged the film as “Surrealism” on IMDB.  I doubt Luis Buñuel would agree.  What people misperceive as weird in Annie Hall are the numerous “breaking the fourth wall” stylistic techniques: speaking directly to the camera, having the adult Alvy visit his own flashbacks and comment on the action, including subtitles explaining what Alvy and Annie are really thinking as they flirt at their first meeting, and including an animated non sequitur explaining that Alvy most identified with the Wicked Queen in Disney’s Snow White.  These techniques, however, are employed in the service of the most conventional plot Allen had conceived up to that time: a true-to-life, impeccably characterized tale of the rise and fall of a romance.  The directorial tools he uses to tell his tale may be unconventional and self-conscious, but they sure ain’t weird.

COMMENTS: Notwithstanding the fact that it’s clearly lodged in the comedy genre, Annie Hall was Woody Allen’s first “serious” movie.  As a dual character study of hapless Alvy and flighty but lively Annie, it shows more depth and ambition than Allen’s previous wacky comedies that had no higher aspirations than too make audiences laugh (and to depict Allen as someone so smart that the audience feels flattered to get his references to Kierkegaard or whomever).  Annie Hall is shamelessly autobiographical (Allen and Keaton really were ex-lovers), and doesn’t try to hide it.  Fortunately, the film’s laden with memorable gags that will stick with you the rest of your life: Alvy’s schoolmates describing their adult interests (one is a methadone addict); Christopher Walken’s brilliant, brief turn as Annie’s unhinged brother; Jeff Goldblum’s even briefer single sentence bit as a trendy Hollywood meathead; and Allen’s classic one-liner regarding masturbation.  Most of the jokes tend towards the witty instead of the sidesplitting, eliciting an appreciative chuckle rather than a hearty belly laugh, but the witticisms come so fast and furious that they keep the audience on edge to see what Allen will come up with next.  They also effectively hide the underlying pain of the tale: Alvy is masochistically self-sabotaging and will never be happy in a relationship, and Annie is too full of life to let Alvy drag her down.  All in all, it’s not quite as relentlessly funny as the comedies that preceded it—BananasSleeper and Love and Death—but Allen’s crafty direction shows a mastery of this particular material that’s hard not to admire.  Allen let the critical praise heaped on him for this serious effort go to his head, turned to directing dramas at the peak of his comic success, and would be only sporadically funny again—a tragic loss for the world of comedy.

The original screenplay was titled “Anhedonia”, a psychological condition describing the inability to experience pleasure.


“The movie gave a fresh confidence to Woody and a generation of solipsistic stand-up comics and it created a new genre, what we might call ‘the relationship picture’, that dispensed with formal narrative… the actual production was a chaotic affair and the picture only came into focus when its editor Ralph Rosenblum reduced the first cut of 140 minutes to a tight 95 in which the real and the surreal co-exist.”–Phillip French, The Observer(DVD)