Loren Cass: DVD

Mar 17, 2011

This bleak purgatorial nightmare of a film gazes like a drooling catatonic at the lives of several twenty-somethings as they fight and fuck and get fucked-up in the aftermath of the St. Petersburg, Florida riots of 1996. Like an episode of the Twilight Zone where almost all the parents and authority figures are strangely missing—as if vaporized by a neutron bomb that spares everyone under the age of thirty—Loren Cass follows the disaffected youth as they numbly try to cope with the reality that they are little more than societal detritus. In this way, Loren Cass is bound to be compared to roughly similar urban/suburban-dystopia films like Suburbia and Kids. The main difference between this film and those is that the people here are gutted and hanging like bodies in Ed Gein’s shack—except these bodies still have heads, sputtering with dim desires and animalistic urges.

Filmmaker Chris Fuller keeps a steady grip on the somber proceedings and doesn’t allow any forays into surrealism or black humor, such as you find in similarly bleak offerings like Eraserhead and Gummo. And for me that’s unfortunate because it ultimately results in film that’s flat for long stretches, with minimalistic dialog that blows by every so often like a lone tumbleweed down a desolate road. These stretches of nothing-really-happening are interrupted throughout the film with sudden flourishes of violent action, where the half-embalmed void-droids lurch to life… dead quiet streets erupt in contextless fights with assailants spilling from abruptly stopped cars and swarming some hapless nobody like crazed jackals, fists making dumb meat sounds as they pound into flesh.

This film, with its blood-trickle slow pace, leaves all sorts of open, unframed psychological space for the viewer to negotiate. That’s both the beauty and potential flaw of Loren Cass. While the viewer is definitely not being led around by the hand, the thematic scaffolding that holds the various scenes together is so sparse that it’s all too easy to find yourself reading something into what you’re seeing, in an attempt to fill in the blanks. Not that that is necessarily a bad thing. But I personally could have used more jarring scenes like my favorite in the film, where the skinhead character is sitting in an easy chair, staring blankly at a TV set, and suddenly ignites into a curious case of spontaneous human combustion.

Graphic footage of R. Budd Dwyer blowing the spaghetti out his head with a gun and footage from a Leftover Crack show also provided some of the movie’s more interesting moments. Maybe more than any other aspect of the movie, I thought the scattered bits of disembodied dialog, provided by people like Keith Morris and Blag Dahlia, were the most intriguing—particularly a snippet of Charles Bukowski talking about “children dying in the trees,” which added a welcome bit of poetry to the film. But all in all, it was an unblinking survey of a fetid, nihilistic landscape with very little of anything stirring. There are plenty of flavors of “bleak” to choose from these days, but Loren Cass just isn’t the one for me. (kino.com)