Who’s Watching Oliver?-I Am, and You Should too, BUT BE WARNED.
Good God Almighty but this is one disturbing movie. This indie gem from Gravitas Ventures, written by Russell Geofrey Banks, Raimund Huber and director Richie Moore is a nut punch that you kinda asked for. A horror movie in the classic sense that it shows truly horrific things, it is anything but predictable or tired. It tells the story of a mentally challenged young man who is struggling to cope with the life he has found himself in. More than just a slasher gore laden film this is a dark look at the things that lurk in the shadows of our neighbors houses. This is a story about abuse, innocence and the corruption of the vulnerable. It’s a great movie but I beg you to go into it forewarned. This is not Nightmare on Elm Street or hell even the Greasy Strangler, but it’s a worm inside and squirm around in your gut kind of film that you won’t soon forget.
Oliver never had a chance. His Mom is a psycho. Not in the cute dead lady in the attic way either. She’s a humiliating, mentally unhinged, foul mouthed freak who just wants to hurt others in the worst possible ways. Imagine a house coat wearing, cotton candy haired Golden Girl, swilling gin martinis and screaming whore at her son while he’s raping and killing some poor girl. If it sounds like a lot, it is. For as ugly the subject matter, this is actually a really well made movie. Don’t let the low budget fool you. For lovers of Lars von Trier Richie Moore may be the next great/dark story teller. It’s kooky and peculiar and so presents enough moral ambiguity you want to look away but can’t.
First let me take a second and gush about the incredible sound and musical choices. I know this sounds like a strange thing to espouse for a horror movie but it really does make the film. Horror is as much about sound as sight and Richie Moore plucks these dissonant chords like a virtuoso. Sound Supervisor Alex Boyesen really out does himself. Before even one drop of blood is spilled I was on edge, freaked out and ready to poke holes in my ear drums. I mean all of that in as complimentary fashion as possible. The harsh ticking clocks, jarring jazz riffs, techno beats, piercing high pitched tones and overly loud foot steps were all used in the most complimentary way to the story. Constant grading noises assaulted me as I navigated the dirty world Oliver resides in. The emotions of our over stimulated lead were emoted through the simplest of noises and that is the genius of this movie.
Director and co-writer Richie Moore who has done excellent work previously in the television series Marco Polo and No Escape is becoming a cinematic force. If you have seen either Maro Polo or No Escape you noticed the sweeping landscape shots juxtaposed with interesting action camera angles. Capturing the feel and culture of people and places is a particular aptitude of his. His clever use of technology to increase the voyeuristic creep factor to 11 is but one of many very smart choices he makes as director. There is plenty of violence, he doesn’t shy away from anything. However the ontological violence is far more profound than the physical violence. The movie is really an assault or critique if you will on our sense of morality and decency. If the movie is meant to shock it accomplishes its goal.
The acting was nothing short of inspired. It makes me feel gross saying it but Margaret Roche’s Mama was amazing. Her no holds barred c u next tuesday laced speech is so abhorrent I wanted to kill her myself. I found no other credits for this actress on IMDb and I’m shocked. This is one of the gutsiest, most complete performances I have ever seen. I didn’t just think she was a good actor I thought she was Mama. Her ability to control Oliver and the audience all while behind the wall of Skype is testament to the bizarre intensity she portrays Mama. The acts she forces Oliver to engage in are scary, but her command of the situation and no boundaries approach to debasement is one of the most disturbing things I have ever seen. Russell Geofrey Banks’ Oliver is a weird, stilted, hunched over, shell of a guy who has Mommy issues to spare. In real life he appears to be a good looking man but he’s nearly unrecognizable in this role. Norman Bates with an under bite and a dose of Rain Man doesn’t even come close to describing this troubled dude. Banks is amassing quite a collection of quality acting credits with things like Cam2Cam and Pernicious. His knack for completing transforming himself into the characters he plays works beautifully in this movie. As awkward and terrible as Oliver is he is immensely sympathetic. Sara Malakul Lane is an ethereal angel. Her Sophia is the ghoulish salve for what ails Oliver. She is both the trusting ingenue and the guiding light of hope he needs to break free of his demons. The instant connection she has with the wildly bizarre Oliver is strangely believable.
Shot in Thailand this is a gorgeous film ripe with bright colors, interesting buildings and fascinating culture. The oddness of the set choices combine seamlessly with the off-putting sounds, gritty subject matter and great acting to create a unnerving misty day dream that doesn’t let up until the surprising ending. An international darling with five awards already this is a legitimate success. It’s a movie that’s hard to explain and even harder to let go of. As much an insightful art film as it is a heinous horror movie it is not to be missed. It is set to be released in the US in July of 2018. A psychological horror movie that once has sunk it’s teeth into you won’t let go until you are missing an appendage. Watch for this can’t miss movie but don’t go home crying for your Mama when your irreparably scarred. You were warned.