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E.C. McMullen Jr.
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Head Production Designer
JOSEPH CROSS, BRIANA EVIGAN,
Special Effects Make-Up
A SIERRA NEVADA
(MICHAEL MADSEN & JOHN SAVAGE).
Around 2005, a cinematic movement finally coalesced around a word called Mumblecore.
Mumblecore movies mainly revolve around late teens and 20 somethings who are entering that scary period where their childhood dies and their adulthood begins: Coming of Age.
The movies are always independent, super low budget, and have no name actors.
If you put the gross profits of all Mumblecore movies together it probably wouldn't equal the cost of Port-A-Johns on a typical Hollywood production. People who make Mumblecore movies do it for the love of film making.
Though Mumblecore traces its roots as far back as Richard Linklater's 1991, Slacker, its birth is firmly in the mid 2000s. Like most cinematic movements, Mumblecore is an experiment which will have a short life. I think that, like most cinematic movements, its effects on the future of film making will be far reaching and long lasting.
Unlike most feature films that require talking, talking, talking and action, action, action, Mumblecore movement understands that, once your characters are established, there is story in the silence between two people who are desperate to communicate with each other.
MAKE-OUT WITH VIOLENCE, I believe, is the first Mumblecore zombie movie.
The movie opens and we hear the young voice of Beetle Darling (Brett Miller). Beetle tells us of his Brothers, Patrick and Carol. His parents had decided on only having two children, a boy and a girl. They even picked names for them. When fraternal twin boys were born, the names remained unchanged. Patrick (Eric Lehning, also co-writer) was born first. Carol (Cody De Vos, also co-writer) was born strangling on the umbilical cord of his brother.
Patrick has an easy time talking to everyone, even girls - so long as they are friends. Cody is somewhat autistic, thinks in direct, linear terms, and has difficulty with social concepts. Metaphors and teen slang are alien to him, and when he makes an attempt to mimic such conversation, the results are usually awkward and sometimes disastrous.
Beetle talks to us as we watch the actions/behavior of his brothers. Beetle also tells us about Wendy (Shellie Marie Shartzer). In the small Nebraska town where they all grew up, Wendy, Patrick, Carol, Addy (Leah High), Rody (Jordan Lehnin), Brian (Josh Duensing), and Anne Haran (Tia Shearer), were all to a greater or lesser extent, part of the same circle of friends. All groups of friends have their keystone - that person who may have introduced them, or just the one who is the most popular among their group. For this group of friends, that person was Wendy.
This is the summer that Wendy disappeared and was eventually given up for dead.
As the friends go through their loss and deal with the funeral, their shared grief pulls at them in different ways.
For Beetle, who is about eight years younger than his brothers, it's a frightening time. Their widower father ignores his children to go out at night looking for another wife, and talks openly of just leaving. Patrick and Carol are old enough to be on their own, but certainly not Beetle. Beetle attempts to fit into his older brother's lives by imitating their behavior. But Patrick is a guy who knows what to say and is afraid to say it, while Carol never knows what to say and will say the first thing that pops into his head. Anne Haran really likes Carol, who really likes Addy, who really likes Wendy's boyfriend, Brian.
Patrick really liked Wendy, and was going to tell her so the very next time she came over to their house to hang out. But Wendy never came back.
One day however, Beetle finds the long missing Wendy tied up between two trees. She isn't dead, but she's not quite alive either. Beetle tells Carol and, not knowing what else to do, but knowing Wendy's condition is too weird to announce to her parents, Carol decides to take her back home. Patrick will know what to do.
Patrick knows how to fit in.
So the summer unfolds. Carol tries to understand the right thing to say so Addy will like him. He also wishes he knew what to say, in an inoffensive way, so Anne Haran will leave him alone. Addy meanwhile clumsily attempts to win the affections of a grieving Brian. Which leaves Patrick alone in the house with the undead Wendy, who is even more intimidating and unpredictable in death, than she ever was in life. At turns seemingly narcoleptic, while at other times frighteningly powerful, there is no safe-zone around the undead Wendy. She's not decaying anymore, but she doesn't seem to be improving either.
With gentle strokes, soft sunsets, and confident shots, Directors The Deagol Brothers (they strongly value their private identities at this time), create one of the most touching, beautiful movies I've ever seen. The first time actors are achingly real in their actions and desires. If the novel, Pride, Prejudice, and Zombies wasn't meant to be a joke, it would be something along the lines of MAKE-OUT WITH VIOLENCE. The title is ungainly, as no one really makes out and there is little violence. Yet it ineptly fits this slow gawky movie that is at turns comical and tearful.
The first time I watched it, I really didn't know what to make of it, the title so threw off my expectations. Imagine Pride and Prejudice meets Napoleon Dynamite, and toss in a zombie. Now remove the pitiful MTV posturing and... no, that doesn't work either. But the film stuck with me, and I had to watch it again. I've seen it five times already. The acting is extraordinary and the droll comedy is well timed. Even its artless flaws play into the inelegant geekiness of the film. And the music is pitch perfect to the emotion of every scene.
But how did she die? What made her this way?
MAKE-OUT WITH VIOLENCE is one of the most original zombie movies I've ever seen and probably the only zombie movie that I could recommend as a romantic date flick. Where most movies demand that you leave your brain at the door, MAKE-OUT WITH VIOLENCE demands that you keep your brain and leave your expectations at the door. I can't explain it any more than that without spoiling it, so you'll just have to see it.
4 Shriek Girls.