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Film Review: Flytrap (2015)

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SYNOPSIS:

Heading to UCLA to see his friend, acerbic astronomer, James, develops car problems and suddenly finds himself embroiled in a rather disturbing game of survival. Will he finally make it to safety, or will he be lost forever?

REVIEW:

Flytrap is an odd little film, slightly experimental and bordering very closely on avant-garde; it’s led by Jeremy Crutchley, who plays James Pond (the similarity gently acknowledged in the film), an English astronomer on his way to visit a friend in Granada Hills when his car suddenly stalls out on an innocuous street. Ina-Alice Kopp (possibly the smartest actress, ever; look up her bio) plays Mary Ann, the woman with a plan to keep James busy after he asks her for assistance. These two are primarily the leads, with the rest of the cast drifting in and out of the story, to a greater or lesser extent. To give any more character names or to describe much more of the plot than has already been done would be giving too much away.

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Let’s just say the film is something of a cross between understated, suggested sci-fi and personalized, psychological horror, with an excellent dash of mild cheeky humor thrown in to acknowledge the absurdity of the situation, an absurdity which gradually unfolds and becomes apparent in the first fifteen to twenty minutes of the film. The wonky flapdoodle of a plot is ably fortified with the welcome presence of Jeremy Crutchley’s fittingly British flippancy, which is absolutely required for the film to work at all. Without it, the film would have been nothing but a dry mess. Unfortunately, about midway through the movie, that flippancy is replaced with dire seriousness and aching human emotion, something that drags the whole thing down to a somber muddle.

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As alluded to above, Crutchley’s splendid acting is the glue that holds this sketchy narrative together; his low-key acerbic levity in the face of mounting strangeness adds a sophistication and wittiness not found in most horror films. He delivers a certain amount of energy that keeps the story moving, even in scenes that feel as if they’re standing still (which is most of them), and a gravity, strangely enough, not commonly encountered in the genre. His cultivated age is also a contributing factor to the welcome latter effect; usually, the roll of James would have been given to a young Adonis appearing to be either fresh out of high school or well into his sophomore year of college; and he would have been changed to a she, resulting in a predictable turn into the worn out Last Girl arena.

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This isn’t to say the rest of the acting is bad; to the contrary, there are subtle moments of sadness nicely conveyed by Jonah Blechman, and a quiet menace momentarily expressed by Jason Duplissea in his brief scene. Billy “Sly” Williams as Rondell, James’s friend, shows appropriate worry in his few scattered scenes when James fails to show after numerous probing phone calls. Jonathan Erickson Eisley as Azarias, the disembodied voice haunting James’s quieter moments, is satisfactorily diaphanous and glum. Considering the excruciatingly low budget of the film, there’s really little production to talk about; the cinematography, the sound, the direction, the limited music are all adequate, if not stellar, for such microscopic financing. The set design is another matter, though; it seems there was no set designer, because the limited space which the film was primarily shot in was decorated with nothing more than a crazy quilt hodgepodge of sheets, throws, and tossed off pieces of fabric lining the walls.

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In the end, Flytrap is terribly weak as a sci-fi horror film, and it’s just as weak as a character driven piece trying to hide its pretense within the veiling tropes of genre filmmaking. None of the characters, excluding James, are concentrated enough to carry a full length feature; that, unfortunately, is a result of the script. It’s as if writer and director, Stephen David Brooks, really couldn’t bring himself to commit to either path; wanting to do something serious, he tried to do a film coming close to experimental, but he seems to have also wanted to attempt a cash grab, as well, leading him to dive into the genre pool. Unfortunately, what he came up with is way too long and way too muted to satisfy either the typical horror fan or mainstream indie film-gower.                                                                           #

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