The Deagol Brothers
Review by Rumsey Taylor
Posted on 25 March 2009
Source 35mm print
Categories The 2009 South by Southwest Film Festival
From its opening moments Make-Out With Violence resembles an elongated music video, a summary of the disappearance of a 17-year-old girl and the effect it has on a pair of brothers, twins Carol and Patrick Darling, the latter of whom remains infatuated with her. Virtually each scene has an accompanying pop song – the soundtrack, remarkably, surpasses the length of the film – propelling the film with effervescent whimsy, amounting to a collage of images and music in an inventive, creative staging of nostalgia and fantasy over the course of a high school summer.
It’s also a sort of zombie movie. One of the brothers, Carol (accompanying his younger brother, Beetle, who is also the film’s occasional narrator), finds the body of the young girl tied, undiscovered, to a pair of trees. Her name is Wendy, and she is still “alive,” and leers after Carol as he endeavors to untie her. But this death isn’t treated characteristically—it’s more of an afterthought, as Patrick’s romantic interest remains the predominant feature of the narrative. In one of many of the film’s uniquely, darkly comedic scenarios, he has arranged a birthday party for her. As he lifts a forkful of cake to her mouth, she instead leers towards the living flesh of his arm.
Wendy reciprocates Patrick’s interest, only primevally. He sustains her, but not in the same way she sustains him, and in order for their interest to be mutualized one must resign to the other’s terms. The film is conflictive in this manner, but this conflict is nonetheless sincere, unique even, even though such a romantic premise is familiar. The point is, Wendy’s not in the ground, and therefore of interest to Patrick; even if she was alive, he may behave in much the same manner, which is to say bashfully self-conscious.
But description fails this scenario; it really has no camp whatsoever, and is depicted so matter-of-factly that you almost forget that the principal character is undead. This is what’s so charming about Make-Out with Violence, that it considers its ridiculous concept with such commitment and sincerity. But Wendy’s macabre presence, and Patrick’s tending to her condition, isn’t really the primary concept, either. Carol has his own romantic hardships, with one of the two girls in his circle: Anne, who’s way in to him, and Addy, who he’s way in to. Each scene in the film has one of these characters vying for the attention of another: Patrick purchases a rat for Wendy to ingest; Carol stages a bike accident in a desperate attempt to win over Addy; and Anne manipulates a date out of Carol. In its inventive hijinks and charm, Make-Out with Violence reprises the preoccupations of John Hughes, projecting them in Romero’s sensibility for metaphor.
Make-Out with Violence was made by a group of high-school friends from Hendersonville, TN, and was filmed in piecemeal over the course of two years. It was subsequently edited in the following two years, and is despite this remarkably fluid and continuous. It’s steeped in nostalgia—Wendy’s disappearance is introduced in the first moments, and the entire film possesses a certain longing, the sort that manifests itself and begins to grow at the moment of graduation, when some of the most formative circumstances of youth are remembered only as ephemeral moments.
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