Sunday, October 24, 2010

THE COMMUNE (2009) - a modern take on the hippie-sploitation genre that is about as exciting as watching an ultimate frisbee tournament

Here's a trailer. Take note of the vaguely annoying new age chant score that sounds like some third rate Lisa Gerrard.

Can we, as a society, please stop using the phrase "drinking the Kool-Aid" every five fucking seconds? The biggest offenders seem to be sports writers and announcers. They'll say they are "drinking the Kool-Aid" on a team, meaning that they are in agreement with the cult of people that believe that Oklahoma has a good football team this year after pasting LSU 77-2. You're so fixated on going out on such a wild limb that you've completely missed the fucking point. The People's Temple all got together one evening to kill themselves, not collectively point out the obvious. Use it as a reference to either insane religion or mass suicide, or don't use it at all.

Well, this particular commune wouldn't even use Kool-Aid and arsenic if they were staging a mass suicide. It would probably be something like soy milk tainted with poisoned mushrooms. That Kool-Aid shit just ain't very good for you. It's pretty much just sugar and food coloring. Remember that scene from House Party, where the kid is mixing the Kool-Aid? I rest my case. Either way, this is a horror movie of sorts that takes place in a crazy commune, so either there's going to be a mass suicide, or a human sacrifice, or the F.B.I. is gonna descend on the place with AK-47s and smoke bombs, and crack some hemp wigs back. Yup Yup.

Until then, we have to watch heroine Jenny hang out at a commune (very authentic looking but curiously sparse) for seventy odd minutes, royally annoyed that she is forced to hang around some hippies (insert tasteless hacky sack joke here). She is supposed to be a fifteen-year-old virgin, but comes across as a 24-year-old party girl pretending to be fifteen and, while borderline hot (she does turn sixteen during the movie so, rounding up a bit, I'm only mildly disgusting), there's nothing conveyed in the form of a burgeoning sexuality or a young innocent forced to confront the horrors of her elders (or even anything more than minimal sympathy). She just comes across as totally bored, rolling her eyes at everything the commune mother says (or whatever the fuck her title is), wishing she were off at a club somewhere tossing back highballs. She does finally find something to do when she hooks up with a local rocker dude named Puck (not the guy from The Real World, a show I have never ever ever never ever watched). While she is stoked that her boredom is being quashed by some alone time with a studmuffin rocker, the dude has a soulpatch, and that shit is simply inexcusable. I find it ironic that dudes with soulpatches are the ones who happen to have a soul count of exactly zero. Anyway, the subtext conveyed here seems to be that communes are boring and that hippies are annoying, rather than any sort of satire on new age nonsense, or the psychosexual journey of a young innocent that the film seems to be going for.

Here is a wasted opportunity to comment on the new age group think. I don't see the process of how a group dynamic based in wonky beliefs functions, or how the new age way of thinking relies on presenting vague emotional interpretations of reality as rational facts (although less dangerous than beliefs based in anger, like those asshole terrorists who blow stuff up for no reason). There's a part where the commune mother mentions that they occasionally get together and watch The Secret, you know, that book and movie thing that says that you can have whatever you want if you imagine it hard enough. It's a secret all right. The secret is that it's bullshit. You're welcome.

She is haunted by the occasional dream or image, but these don't really convey the underbelly of her surroundings so much as remind you that something bad will eventually happen. This amounts to a conceptually disturbing (but narratively ill-fitting) ending wise, a bit ripped off from two horror classics that shall remain nameless. While I appreciate the effort to create a slow build, we spend most of the run time hanging out in an annoying commune with Jenny, waiting for something to happen. Just because time passes doesn't mean suspense is being built.

So, the result is a film about a commune where several horror elements feel like they are forced in, rather than naturally arising from the characters and the situation. The film might have played better, assuming the same actress in the lead role, as a quirky comedy of sorts, maybe along the lines of Lukas Moodysson's Together. A Lindsay Lohan type, a boozy tramp out of water, is forced to live in a commune against her will. Wild shenanigans ensue. Of course, spending time with people that live a life completely different from her own, she learns a valuable lesson in the end, that maybe she shouldn't act like a stuck up bitch all the time, and maybe getting drunk every night is no way to go through life. Of course, she immediately forgets this lesson after about a week after she returns home, but the important thing is that the audience is taught these valuable lessons in the process. So, yes, we can learn many a solid lesson from these hippie types, that war is retarded and free love rocks and Phish is tolerable (wait, scratch that last one). Just remember to ignore them when they start pulling out crystals and rambling about a god made out of hemp.

P.S. This is part four in the "Lazy Baker's Dozen Halloween Horror Movie Countdown". I think I may have changed the title of this marathon a couple of times, but the point is that I'm reviewing eleven horror films in eleven days. As long winded as I tend to be, this shit is not going to be easy.

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