Or, “Mad Max Beyond Oxnard.” Crude and cruder, lurider and lurider, “Bellflower” is the modern-day filmmaking equivalent of a rough-and-ready lo-fi why’d-she-break-up-with-me rock album. Evan Glodell’s debut feature is jagged, its colors a tumescent orange and golden, consistently cruddy to look upon and with a specific kind of male possessiveness, misogyny and hatred to look down upon. It’s an accomplishment, but one that will repel as many viewers as it attracts. While not on the level of Lodge Kerrigan’s “Clean, Shaven,” it’s a similar tract: here’s something deeply distressing I know about life. Please observe along with me. Scream, cover your eyes if you must. Building on California otherworldliness of a different substance than Mike Ott’s recent, much calmer “Littlerock,” this openly preposterous testosterone cacophony of great and tactile conviction posits a couple of buddies, Woodrow and Aiden, with house-made flamethrowers and incendiary devices crafted from their fixation on the armory of the “Mad Max” movies and eager for apocalypse. (Still, they’re not the most masculine of men and droop over true love too much to be hate-hate-haters of the highest reach.) They obsess on the “Medusa,” a 1972 Buick Skylark they’ve made into a fiery machine, but on women as well. (The Medusa has “two fuel-injected exhaust flamethrowers with a 30,000 volt ignition system,” “self-contained oxygen supply for chemical or underwater warfare” and a “sawed-off shotgun in the trunk”; the women, slightly kooky blondes.) Where that droopy true love stuff goes leads to acting-out in a school with, if not a league with, Gaspar Noe’s toxic “I Stand Alone.” A key, climactic moment has the crude, sudden comic bloodspill of Icelandic cartoonist Hugleikur Dagsson; a slow-motion dive-bar cricket-eating bacchanal scored to a slow cover of Kate Bush’s “Running Up That Hill” is a highlight of this reeking, sweaty, aching fever dream of banal nihilism, B-movie mania and back-road grunge. Glodell stars, writes, directs, co-financed, and designed the apocalyptic accouterments as well as the “custom optical system” that created the film’s unique, raw look. With Jessie Wiseman, Tyler Dawson, Rebekah Brandes, Vincent Grashaw. 105m. (Ray Pride)
“Bellflower” opens Friday at Landmark Century.
Ray Pride is Newcity’s film critic and a contributing editor to Filmmaker magazine.
His history of Chicago “Ghost Signs” in words and images will be published in Spring 2022.