Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Acne - 2005

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Acne is a film about two crazy kids with an acne problem, but not the kind you’d usually think of. No, they’re not your usual greasy, pizza-faced saps, doomed to social awkwardness. Franny (Tracey Hayes) and Zoe (Nails) (harkening to Franny and Zooey, members of Salinger’s Glass family) are the victims of a terrible plot. See, the oil companies and Mershey’s Chocolate company are in cahoots. There is a deliberate oil spill that contaminates the drinking water, which of course, our two heroes do indeed drink. Sure, everyone does, but this virus only affects teenagers—because they have “just the right amount of bodily oil”—leaving younger kids and adults unscathed. The result: all the teens of the town become “zitheads”—characterized by a zombified stupor, the loss of all of their hair, and the tops of the heads transforming into giant, exploding zits.

Needless to say, this is quite disgusting. In fact, I’m not sure which is more gross: the actual popping of the giant zit heads, or afterwards when they are “feeding.” See, they don’t eat brains, oh no. And they don’t eat human flesh, no siree. They feed by rubbing oil-based products on their nasty, gaping, open zit heads after they’ve popped—butter, Crisco, you name it. Soon, the Army is involved and the lives of the teens are threatened (the political undertones of Acne are obvious, taking shots at capitalism, the government, and even the willingness of “the people” to be fleeced). Will Franny and Zoe survive? Will Mershey get away with this diabolical deed? You’ll have to tune in to find out.

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Rusty Nails, of New Eye Films, in my opinion, is a filmmaker to be watched. Primarily—and call me an elitist, that’s fine—because he’s clearly not just another Camcorder Coppola. He’s not some guy who really likes zombie movies (though he is a fan) and so decided to spend $50, get his friends together and make a movie. He is a fan of films and a student of good filmmaking, and that makes all the difference in the world. He’s inspired by the French New Wave, and influenced by the likes of Jarmusch, Bunnel, Sirk, Van Sant, and of course, Romero. And these influences show. Acne's storyline is the kind of ridiculous fun that most of us can sit down, have a laugh and enjoy. But an amusing plot does not a good film make. And that’s the difference. In the hands of someone who couldn’t bring themselves to sit through a Lars von Trier film, this would have been a disaster. Instead we have a smart looking little movie, shot on B&W film (Nails seems to have put his $18,000 budget in all the right places)—an anesthetic decision that not only looks good, but hides production flaws—a smart decision, in my opinion.

Nails is also a music fan, and that also goes a long way to the film’s credit. Citing the influence of bands like Le Tigre, 7 Seconds, Minutemen, Operation Ivy, and Dead Kennedys (who’s Moon Over Marin Franny and Zoe wake up to at the start of the movie), Acne also has a fantastic soundtrack including previously mentioned DK, Lunachicks, Devo and Tilt. Instrumental pieces by Lisa Brandt and Scott Lamberty round it out with music to match the wonky 50’s Space Invaders feel of Acne (you can certainly feel the Sirk in this movie).

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Also included on the Acne DVD are the short film Santiago vs. Wigface (a vividly colored, wacky romp in the silly vein of Acne--possibly wackier), the videos for Radar’s “God is Dad” and Tilt’s “Animated Corpse” (a completist zombie and punk rock fan must-have), and the 2 minute Blood Drinkers “trailer,” described on IMDb as:

"Blood Drinkers" is a recently found 40's film trailer from the never screened 1945 feature "Blood Drinkers." The trailer itself drove people to insanity and was purposely "lost" to prevent further mass hysteria.

Again, if you love zombies, and you want to see it all, Blood Drinkers is an adder to the list.

Do I recommend Acne? Yes, I do. It’s gross, it’s playful, it’s pleasing to look at, and between the B&W presentation and the score, I sometimes found myself getting that Night of the Living Dead ‘68 feeling, which is always fun. Filmmakers who have a good eye, know how to instruct a good cinematographer (hell, one that even uses a cinematographer), and actually goes out of his way to get the rights to the music he uses (as opposed to doing everything you can, legal or illegal, to save a buck) are rare things in this genre. Show this talented, scrupulous, and inventive filmmaker some love.


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