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STUDIO: Big Bite Entertainment
RATED: Not rated
RUNNING TIME: 90 minutes
Jacob’s Ladder meets Eraserhead meets boredom.
Writer & Director: James Rewucki
In this elegant looking but wholly vacant horror-thriller, an agoraphobic loser becomes ploddingly consumed by personal demons and trippy atmospherics.
Oofta! This movie. I waited a full day after watching Aegri Somnia – Latin for “a sick man’s dreams” – before starting my review because I needed time to cool off and reflect. Truth be told, I kind of fucking hated this film, but the annoyed rant that would’ve flown from my fingers last night wouldn’t have been appropriately informative for you fine readers. Cause I think there are people out there who might actually like Aegri Somnia quite a bit. So, keeping that in mind…
The premise of the film is respectably simple: Edgar (Tyhr Trubiak) is a meek dweeb who dislikes most human interaction, especially any confrontation with his bitchy wife. After said bitchy wife accidentally dies while taking a bath, Edgar retreats into himself even further. He starts hallucinating, has nightmares, and his world warps, becoming increasingly Lynchian – a neighbor mysteriously disappears, his coworker casually murders someone in front of him, he receives a strange note with a cryptic message at work. “Isolation can be an addiction too,” his one and only friend tells him early on.
Stylistically the film is fantastic. Shot in almost a German expressionist black & white, with certain scenes done in color for effect, this is the area in which James Rewucki’s talents lie. The film nicely selects locales – graveyard, Old World looking alleys and streets – and while it can become a bit much at times, I liked how the film used sound design; unpleasant tones and noises serve much like score in parts. This is the kind of film that has numerous, longish sequences of our hero walking through smoke-filled, eerie streets between scenes. Viewers who eat this sort of thing up maybe find interest here. Those of you who get off on content will probably start hitting the fast forward button or fall asleep or fall asleep while hitting the fast forward button.
The film reminded me a lot of a grad student thesis film. That isn’t to say it’s bad (I’ve seen some amazing thesis films), but the film has the borderline pretentious air and still-using-my-influences-as-training-wheels feel of a filmmaker who hasn’t quite shaken off the film school stink.
I can live with film school stink though. My real problem is that of content, or lack there of rather. A movie doesn’t always need a lot of plot or action or big moments to work, but a film does need substance. Aegri Somnia is committed to maintaining a viscous level of faux-Lynchian unease and ambiguity at every moment, which renders the film completely inert. The end result of every scene is… nothing. You can only make me wonder “Did any of that really happen?” so many times before I completely stop caring.
Even the excellent imagery becomes increasingly uninteresting as Edgar’s world continues to collapse. The film directly lifts the weird creatures from Jacob’s Ladder (complete with undercranking camera tricks), and hamfists some undercooked Christian imagery in there too. For all its elegance early on, eventually we become trapped in an endless Nine Inch Nails or Tool video.
I could’ve probably stomached all this. I think what ultimately kills the film is the character interactions. Everyone behaves and speaks in a highly stylized, disconnected way, which can and has worked in the hands of abler directors and actors (Naked Lunch comes to mind). Here, anything over a brief exchange became unbearable for me. Worst off all, I could not stand Edgar. Trubiak’s performance borders on parody at times, like a Mad TV version of an introverted dork. Film’s like this – Jacob’s Ladder, Eraserhead, Barton Fink, Pi – need to be anchored by the lead. This film drifted out to sea.
So. I very much disliked this film. Full disclosure: I’m not much of a fan of Eraserhead either (though I think it is better than this). So if you crave ambient style in your cinema, please take my opinion with a grain of salt. Everyone else just rent Jacob’s Ladder – support Pruitt Taylor Vince!
Got a screener. Can’t help ya. Picture is very nice though.