Bellflower, the stunning, screaming, screeching, and revelatory muscle-car and flamethrower-fetishizing indie romantic thriller from newbie filmmaker Evan Glodell, is a delightfully strange hybrid creature.
It's part romance (think Cameron Crowe's Say Anything - but with guns); part sincerehead postadolescent dudescape (Richard Linklater's Slacker); part savage apocalyptic sci-fi nightmare souped up with Mad Max, Fight Club, and Easy Rider; and part hipster manifesto. And it's all about rage.
At turns viciously funny and plain vicious, it's a portrait of a generation of young men adrift between harsh reality (a country at war, an economy spinning out of control) and an even harsher fantasy world, a media-created dream of horror films, video games, and angry music.
We get a taste of that rage at the very top: The film opens with a strange, backward-moving look at the story's bloody denouement. It's a tantalizing tease that really gets its hooks into you.
The story is simple. Glodell stars as Woodrow, who spends his free time with fellow jobless slacker BFF Aiden (Tyler Dawson) building muscle cars and homemade flamethrowers. Obsessed with Mel Gibson's car-and-gun fever dream, Mad Max, the perpetual adolescents discuss all the fun they'll have once the apocalypse comes. Their role in the Eschaton? To raise a gang named Mother Medusa and go around blowing stuff up.
The two friends, who live in a creepy suburb of Los Angeles that's right out of T.S. Eliot's The Waste Land, decide to get the party started by customizing a 1972 Buick Skylark with flamethrowers, surveillance cameras (real digi-cameras that Glodell uses throughout the film), and an internal oxygen supply (for when the planet's atmosphere is zapped by aliens?).
The slackers' lives change dramatically when babes enter the picture. Woodrow looses what grip he had on reality when he falls hard for Milly (Jessie Wiseman), an alterna-rock-chic version of the film-noir femme fatale who announces, "I'll hurt you." Aiden is likewise captivated by Milly's pal, Courtney (Rebekah Brandes).
Things take a very bloody turn as Woodrow's world is shattered when Milly betrays him.
Shot for $17,000 - not even loose change in Hollywood - Bellflower is a virtuoso performance by a genuine new American auteur: In addition to directing and starring in the film, the 31-year-old Glodell also wrote, coedited, and coproduced it. Bellflower has plenty of rough edges and it suffers from a bad case of hipper-than-thou-ness. But it's a triumph.