Within the world of indie movies and indie cinema, there are places that movies can go where they just can’t go in Hollywood. This rings true in the subject matter sometimes, but what I really mean is that the direction of a movie, it’s endings and outcomes, and the overall cinematic experience is just different. There are things that directors are unable to recreate with limited budgets and resources, but there are also things that the big money studios can’t create which the independent films are able to capture. This is what makes ‘Bellflower’ one of my must see movies that you’ve never seen.
The film is directed by young filmmaker Evan Glodell, and is about two guys named Aiden and Woodrow (also played by Glodell), who have moved to Los Angeles. The two spend most of their time building weaponry and hardware that will help them in the case of an upcoming apocalypse. This includes a very bad-ass flamethrower and a sort of super-muscle-car (both of these were created for real by the film makers, which adds an awesome authenticity to things). As we follow the two of them, things begin to get complicated, as Woodrow falls in love with a woman named Milly. What begins as a lovely, fresh relationship begins to turn sour however, and this leads to a downward spiral of insanity, obsession and violence.
The first thing that jumps out about the film is it’s amazing (and I mean amazing) visual style, especially considering the pocket change budget they were working with. In a way I think that the budget works in their favor, as what we get is a very raw, visceral style, with the shots looking slightly vintage and grainy in a subtle way. It almost appears as though there is some kind of filter over things, as the bright reds of blood and the oranges of flames just fly off the screen and hit you in the face, contrasted with the blurred, dirty surroundings. This is no comic book though. It’s all very surreal, but with the impact of something completely real and tangible. Almost like walking in a daze to the bathroom, while you’re half asleep and then hitting your head on the door.
The film, right from the jump, gives you this feeling of impending doom. You see these two friends building these weapons as a part of some kind of slightly immature “club” but you don’t think they really believe there is an apocalypse. They are just in their own world. But as we see them move out of this world, into relationships and other real life situations, we are fooled into thinking they know how to handle them. We never really understand exactly where the film is going. It takes us where it wants to take us, and we just follow along, because it never let’s go of our hand. It’s like Dante, being led through the levels of hell by his proverbial ‘tour guide.’
There is a lot of ambiguity in the film, but this just adds to its effect. It doesn’t leave us completely clueless by any means, but it also doesn’t just lay everything right out in front of us. The acting is surprisingly good. At first I was worried, as it seemed a little off, but strangely the less normal our stars had to act, the better they seemed to get. Perhaps they are just messed up people in real life!? Either way, their performances help express the same feelings that we as an audience feel, and this adds to the sense of being led somewhere. Like a fly on the wall that is watching some horrible things. We just feel like things are going to go south, and we would love to tell the characters, but we just have to watch and hope things don’t.
There are comparisons to be made between this film and many bigger name directors, such as Tarantino or maybe even Fincher. There is that disjointed insanity that somehow manages to be completely connected which we see in films like Pulp Fiction and Reservoir Dogs. There is that unflinching brutality that we often see from Fincher. But this film is just more raw, and somehow more real.
One of my absolute favorite indie films of the last decade, this is one that is not going to be for everybody. It is quite frankly a little messed up, and perhaps it’s viewers need to be as well in order to really enjoy it. Part love story, part who the f*** knows story, if you love and are inspired by fantastic film making with minimal resources, then add this one to your list of must see movies.
Check out the trailer here. The film is available on Netflix Instant Stream for those of you who have it.