04 September 2008

At the movies: Make-Out with Violence.

So, my review for Make-Out with Violence got an actual URL, but, as usual, it's slashed down a bit.

So, here's my Director's Cut review. The film is playing at 6:45 and 8:30 PM at the Belcourt on Wednesday, September 10th, and I'd advise everyone to try and check it out.


There’s an austere and bloody beauty to this film, a languid charm, and a deeply poetic sense of possibility. I’ve never seen anything quite like Make-Out with Violence, a locally-made marvel that tramples genre expectations while delivering interesting characters and a tangled net of believable and affecting relationships. This could have been a slice-of-life dramedy and worked beautifully; it could just as easily have been a straight-up splatterfest and left the most ravenous of audiences satiated. But the film finds its own path, and beautifully.

There’s a dash of Return of the Living Dead 3 here, skulking around in the background. Similarly, you can feel the open, implicitly southern laconic openness of David Gordon Green’s George Washington and All the Real Girls. But Make-Out with Violence is such a fully-realized original vision that the only thing I could honestly compare it to with any degree of authority is Sofia Coppola’s masterpiece The Virgin Suicides (there’s certainly a thematic echo there, but Make-Out is far less dreamy and more focused on the specifics of loss and desire). Whether you take the zombie story at the heart of the film as a literal exploration of what happens when love leaves and you’re left with only flesh, or if you’d rather see it as an extended metaphor for the Darling boys’ metabolizing their grief, there’s no denying that what The Deagol Brothers have put onscreen is like nothing else to come out of the city before, and moreso a staggeringly promising debut.

There’s a sense of community to these characters, and one of the film’s strengths is the way it allows all the different connections between characters to unfold organically, shading in the little details of the hearts being juggled at its center. Make-Out with Violence understands young love; how it transforms bodies, disrupts allegiances, turns friend and family against one another, and sometimes offers a way in- or a way out.

The horror and dramatic elements are in perfect balance (with only a couple of overly comic scenes breaking the film’s sensuous and hypnotic spell), and there’s a cumulative sense of haunting, literally and figuratively, that gains strength throughout, culminating with a finish that weaves shock, resignation, and a palpable lament for what was and what was lost. There’s a stark emotional truth at the center of the film that most movies, of any size or budget, just aren’t interested in exploring. But Make-Out with Violence can sit proudly alongside Black Snake Moan and The Heart is Deceitful Above All Things as examples of Tennessee filmmaking at its most uncompromising and enduring.

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