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DIRECTED BY: Homer Flynn, The Residents
FEATURING: Dustin York
PLOT: After a crisis of faith, a priest (and son of a deceased member of the Residents) becomes a plumber and goes insane as he is consumed by his theory about a fungus-led conspiracy.
COMMENTS: “Junior” is an ex-ponytailed skateboarding priest who’s lost his faith and become a plumber. His mom just died. His only friend is a malfunctioning A.I. drone. He finds semen-like fungus clogging up every drain he services. He sometimes sees the ghost of his dead father, a former lead singer of the Residents. From his cell phone, the news blares about a Night of the Living Dead style plague striking white people in prisons and meat-packing plants. So his life is pretty full. His main hobby is theorizing about the omnipresent fungus and its possible lunar origins, but Junior obsesses over many things: a kidnapping from his past, a local radio tower, the nice Wiccan girl he has a crush on, the unusual number of white vans in his neighborhood, and the Residents’ unfinished movie “Vileness Fats.” And every now and then he finds himself drawn into short dream sequences featuring dancing eyeball-headed men.
Yes, the Residents’ Triple Trouble lays a strong claim to weirdness, as one would expect from a movie proffered by a band fronted by giant eyeballs. A lot of the experimental video work, featuring spinning backdrops and the mini video-art dream sequences, is cool. Scraggly Dustin York does fine enough, acting most of the time alongside disembodied voices (partly a function of the pandemic-era shooting schedule). But, unfortunately, the project as a whole never comes together, or goes sideways in a truly interesting manner. It’s inspired by a combination of lockdown paranoia and Residents nostalgia, but nothing coheres thematically; its 90 minutes don’t seem to be about anything much in particular. The plot eventually unwinds as a portrait of a delusional schizophrenic, an approach which feels lazy and almost anti-cathartic. (In another disappointment, there’s little actual Residents music on the soundtrack; no full-fledged songs, just snippets of the kind of incidental accompaniment you’d find in any similar indie project.) Perhaps unsurprisingly, Triple Trouble is aimed at an audience who are already fans of the band—it’s obviously full of in-jokes and references your reviewer missed (along with a few he caught). Whether the resulting concoction intrigues the novice enough to hunt down more from the Residents in a vain quest to understand what it all means will vary from person to person.
To a large extent, the backstory behind the making of Triple Trouble is more interesting than the finished project (as well as helping to explain its air of, um, unevenness.) Director and Residents co-founder/current spokesman Homer Flynn embeds a lot of the band’s lore into this project, starting with both references to and actual footage from “Vileness Fats.” “Fats” was an elaborate unfinished avant-garde video project about one-armed dwarfs, conjoined twins, and dirty laundry, shot on sets aping The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, which the band worked on for four years in the mid-1970s, shooting fourteen hours of footage before abandoning it to the dustbin. Triple Trouble also rests on the bones of Double Trouble, a planned Residents feature which began shooting in 2016, which shut down in 2019 after the death of Gerri Lawler (who plays Junior’s mother). The color flashback footage in Triple Trouble featuring Junior as a priest comes from that half-completed film. Perhaps sensing that working for years on unfinished projects was getting them nowhere, the Residents shot the remaining material that makes up Triple Trouble in ten days. So if Triple Trouble seems a little cobbled-together, Residents fans can at least rejoice that the stars finally aligned for long enough to bring a movie to completion.
The 2023 Blu-ray offers some interesting supplements. There are four deleted scenes (one of which should have been included in the film, as it outlines Junior’s conspiracy theory in relatively lucid detail) and a blooper. It also includes trailers for Triple Trouble, the original teaser for Double Trouble, and a promo for the Residents’ performance of “God in 3 Persons Live.” The disc sports a reel of unused stop-motion animated footage from “Vileness Fats” (I don’t know whether this has appeared elsewhere). The most significant extra is the 17-minute long “Vileness Fats Concentrate,” a short which gives you a good sense of the pretentious, unhinged wackiness that the unfinished project might have been. “Concentrate” had been released before, but presumably this 2022 “remaster” is higher quality. Residents completists will obviously be all over this like fungus on a drainpipe.
WHAT THE CRITICS SAY: