Monday, January 10, 2011
The Bunny Game (2010)
Simply put, The Bunny Game is a brilliant piece of filmmaking. I'm still floored a couple days later after having watched it. By film's end, you'll have to do your best to pick your jaw off the floor. Completely disturbing and unsettling while at the same time having a point to all the onscreen madness, it will leave an indelible mark on your psyche.
Before I dive into my full review, I'd be remissed if I didn't mention the hand written letter that accompanied my screener copy of the review. I received a hand written list of explicit instructions which I needed to comply with before watching the film. The list is as folllows:
If you can't read it, click on the photo itself to big-ify. Interesting way to set the stage, right? But truthfully, I didn't need to do all of that prior to the start of the film. I was completely in awe and transfixed from the get-go.
For the first 20 minutes or so of the film, we follow the actions of a hooker as she gets through a day's work. A picture is painted of a life that's stuck in a vicious cycle: drugs, sex (which is oftentimes forceful), money, stop for food, continue to work, rinse and repeat. And as each act is performed, the camera doesn't pan or move away at all from any of it, putting you front and center to the mess that has become this young woman's life. It's the last act, the last straw if you will, that sends her completely over the edge. After a constant stream of drug use throughout the day, and with the man in her motel room having absolutely no problem with it, she passes out and he proceeds to use her limp body. She awakens later only to find all of her money stolen.
Distraught, she leaves the motel and walks down a road leading out of the city. A truck driver soon pulls up, calls her into his truck, and she obliges. Afterall, what else does she have to lose? They begin their interaction with some small talk followed by her sharing with him some of her white powdery stuff as its been a long day for him out on the open road. The man, old with a greyed beard and looking very Jeff Bridges-like, resists requests from her for sex. But after a couple more rebuffs, he smothers her with a cloth, drugs her and tosses her into the back seat.
He starts up and heads out of town in his big rig, the girl still zonked out in the back seat. He makes his way out to the middle of the California desert, settling off to the side of the road in a cleared and uninhabited area. When she awakens, she finds herself chained in the back of his truck. What ensues next, for the remainder of our film, is not so much torture per se, but a complete shaming of her. From spitting to slapping and then onwards to shaving her head and branding her, this woman is emotionally and physically made broken, even far more than she ever was before. But there is a point to all of this, one that I won't reveal but you will catch on to it if you pay attention and follow along closely.
A mention must be made about the style of the film itself as it's reminiscent of David Lynch and the aesthetics which he typically employs (i.e. odd images, camera angles and zooms). In fact, it would make for a great double feature alongside Nathan Wrann's Burning Inside. The cinematography is also stunning and really beautiful.
Overall, The Bunny Game is an engrossing but at the same time, disturbingly haunting film. It will be a challenge for some to get through this film. But if you make it all the way through, catch on to the intent and larger theme, you'll be left saying (like I did), 'Goddamn, that's a brilliant piece of filmmaking.'
The film is starting to make a name for itself, gaining notoriety and (hopefully) distribution efforts. Stay on alert for it and more from writer/director/freak-er out-er/ Adam Rehemier. And enough can't be said about the amazing performances of both leads, Rodleen Gestic (Bunny) and Jeff F. Renfro (Hog). They carry the film and it wouldn't be the hellish nightmare that it is without them.
Cortez the Killer