Tuesday, August 13, 2013

The Stuff Nightmares Are Made Of: "Coyote" (2013)

While stories dealing with the warped minds of the psychotically insane are a dime a dozen, Trevor Juenger presents this amazing character study, anchored by the excellent Bill Oberst, Jr.

Juenger jumps right in as Bill (Bill Oberst, Jr.) sits in his new house, paid for by his mother. He works a mundane job with racist Joe (Bill Finkbiner), and the viewer is clued in right away that things are not alright in Bill's head. He suffers from insomnia ("sleep is the enemy"), to the point that his already warped mind kicks out some pretty terrifying hallucinations. After a disastrous fishing trip with Joe, Bill gets another job at a home shopping television network, and hooks up with Jesse (Victoria Mullen). Jesse is a bit of a mess herself, and the relationship furthers Bill's psychosis.

I can't go into too much detail about what happens to Bill, but you might figure out how bad it gets if you've seen this kind of film before. Yes, this story has been told before, but rarely this well. I liked Juenger's previous "Johnny Be Gone", and here he cranks up the tension to disturbing proportions. I would favorably compare this to David Lynch or early Cronenberg. I watch tons of experimental and avant-garde films, and Juenger is a master of the genre. I am not easily shocked or grossed out, but this film had me on edge.

Oberst might look familiar, he has dozens of credits on IMDB. His performance is excellent. His role demands a strong actor, and he delivers. Mullen is believably pitiful and sad as Jesse, grasping at any companionship her character can find, ignoring all the warning signs about Bill.

Technically, everything clicks. The camerawork is imaginative, the special effects aren't obvious, and the music is very ominous. Juenger's direction is astounding. He uses every trick (and lens) he can find, but none of it feels forced or manipulative. The planning that goes into each shot and sequence must have been immense.

"Coyote" is not a popcorn munching good time at the movies. It is dark, dank, and unsettling perfection. (* * * * *) out of five stars.