BELLFLOWER (Dir. Evan Glodell, 2011)
Boy meets girl. Boy loses girl. Boy torches girl’s stuff with a flamethrower he built himself.
That’s one way to put what happens in Evan Glodell’s directorial debut “Bellflower” which he also wrote and stars in.
Named for the street it mostly takes place on (Bellflower Avenue in Los Angeles), Glodell’s film is a frenetic mix of sex and violence shot through dirty lenses that comes off like cinematic graffiti.
Glodell plays Woodrow, who you’d label a slacker as he has no visible means of support, who with his best friend Aiden (Tyler Dawson), is preparing for the apocalypse by building weaponry and outfitting their car, because they were highly influenced from watching MAD MAX on VHS over a 100 times in their youth.
At a dive bar, Glodell meets a bleached blonde (Jessie Wiseman) in a disgusting cricket eating contest. There’s chemistry between the couple, but you just know it’s going to be explosive, not in a good way, especially when she says “You don't want me to be your girlfriend, because I will hurt you.”
Translation: Girl is going to cheat, most likely with her roommate (Vincent Grashaw) one can easily guess when seeing the ominous shot that introduces him.
Glodell and Wiseman take a road-trip to Texas on their first date, all the while drinking whiskey in Dixie cups dispensed from a nozzle on the dashboard of Glodell’s Volvo. “It’s like a James Bond car for drunks!” Wiseman says.
Seeking out the sleaziest, most dangerous roadside dinner they can find, Glodell ends up getting punched in the face by a redneck pick-up trucker, which won’t be the last time our protagonist will take a beating.
When the bottom falls out shortly after they return home with Globell getting in a motorcycle accident after discovering Wiseman’s infidelity, Dawson presents his injured friend with a black muscle car dubbed “Medusa.”
BELLFLOWER is messy, but it’s not a mess. Its emotional element is undercooked, but its chaotic construction belies a purposeful production that makes the most of its extremely low budget, which was reportedly around $17,000.
In addition to his writing, directing, and lead acting duties, Glodell also actually ate bugs, got punched in the face, and built the flamethrower, car, as well as the camera he used to shoot the film.
All of which makes BELLFLOWER one of the most impressive debuts in recent memory.
To get a sense of a filmmaker’s hopes and dreams is one thing, but to as effectively capture, with great gusto, their fears and nightmares can be just as beautiful.
However, I wouldn’t call this film beautiful, for it is often outright ugly, but its oversaturated visuals displaying grimy desperate terrain burned well into my psyche nevertheless.