Color, 2013, 75m.
Directed by Trevor Juenger
Starring Bill Oberst Jr., Victoria Mullen, Bill Finkbiner, Shawn I. Chevalier
The concept of a writer losing his marbles and becoming embroiled in murder and hallucinations gets an intense, head-spinning workout in Coyote, an indie art/horror gem that walks that fine, tricky line between gritty exploitation and avant garde insanity.
Busy actor Bill Oberst Jr. (whose credits range from The Secret Life of Bees to the title role in Abraham Lincoln vs. Zombies) stars as Bill, who works for a Missouri moving company during the day but struggles with his writing at night. He does it old school with a typewriter, but extreme sleep deprivation causes his perception between illusion and reality to break down -- much to the consternation of those around him including his girlfriend (Mullen). The consequences are many, including inappropriate use of antifreeze, increasingly macabre infomercials, black body paint, and recitations of Shakespeare soliloquies with a dead animal on his head. He also thinks his own body is breaking down (in the best Cronenberg and Lynch tradition) as it evolves to another non-human form, and things get very strange indeed.
While this works as a solid showcase for Oberst, the real thrust of this film is an immersive a/v experience from loaded with distorted lenses, bright colors, and an aggressive sound mix, augmented with a sterling electronic score by newcomer Michel Schiralli that compares favorably with ROB's work on the remake of Maniac. This marks the second feature for director Trevor Juenger (after Hermetica), who manages to put his own stamp on a narrative tactic explored in films ranging from Roman Polanski's Repulsion to Terry Gilliam's Tideland (with this one veering more in the direction of the latter, if it can even be compared to anything else at all). It's always a tricky proposition having a protagonist whose perception of the world is called into question from the outset and keeps diving further down the rabbit hole, but this one comes up with a particularly screwy spin that never lets up until the final minute.
Speaking of which, special props for the macabre and unforgettable resolution, which leads into one of the more indelible end credits sequences you'll see this year. The one major debit here is some of the dialogue recording, with a few off-camera conversations sounding like they could use a little more sweetening in post. Hopefully they'll be able to give this one more pass before it formally goes out for commercial distribution. In the meantime, this review was based off of a digital screening that looked and sounded great; even at 720p the visuals have an impact and assurance you'd associate with more seasoned filmmakers, and the soundtrack alone makes for one killer of an experience.