Last year at FrightFest, two outstanding little films – Pod, They Look Like People – dealt with damaged characters who believed that aliens had interfered with their lives. It must be a zeitgeisty theme, even outside the constant trickle of abducted-and-probed UFO movies, for here’s a third entry in the sub-genre.
Willem Koda (George Basil), a former geologist with the US government who has lost his job (and wife) after an underground incident he believes is related to an extra-terrestrial conspiracy, ekes out a living giving dull lectures on the geek circuit. Plainly a difficult man to deal with, he is an unpopular regular customer at a small-town diner – until new waitress Flossie (Pamela Fila) tries to be nice to him, which inspires him to try to get his story told by making a film autobiography, playing himself and casting Flossie (an aspiring actress) as his wife. Todd (Andy Rocco), another oddball, is Willem’s only friend, though mostly because his late uncle was a true tinfoil hat believer who fed his conspiracy addiction. Todd gets roped in to photograph and seemingly direct the film, which gets shot in fits and starts … as Flossie, who has a patronising big city boyfriend (Stephen Girasuolo), comes to understand that Willem is an even sadder, more cracked soul than was obvious.
A gentle character comedy with a deep melancholic streak, this has some excruciating scenes – Willem goes to a dinner party and Flossie’s friends jokingly draw his story out in order to make fun of him, though this is the scene in which we realise that something really did happen in that mine which isn’t easy to explain. As in Pod and They Look Like People, this is acute about how painful it is to be friends with someone spiralling into insanity – even Todd, who looks like a loser geek, is on a more even keel than Willem, and is movingly torn between remembering his uncle as a drunk who died of cancer and wanting to believe in Willem’s version of the old man as a visionary truth seeker murdered in a cover-up. Like Todd, the film is torn between the tugs of different worldviews – neatly, Pod delivered real aliens while They Look Like People stuck to earthly mental disorders … this takes a third tack, suggesting Willem is on to something important but not fully explaining what it is. Written and directed by Michael Borowiec and Samantha Marine.