Pathfinder // 2006 // 72 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // April 13th, 2006
No NutraSweet here.
I haven't seen many like Sugar. The film tells the story of a nameless woman and her psychological ordeal within a cramped, filthy one-room apartment. Actually, there's not much of a story going on here. The film is a collection of on-screen oddities, bizarre visuals, nightmarish hallucinations, and innovative camera work. The narrative (if you can call it that) is less cohesive than my five-year-old gym socks and, like the central character, fractured.
But here's a general description of what will happen if you put this disc into your player and press play. We first meet the woman (played by co-writer Samara Golden) dragging a bloodied body out of the crawlspace of an apartment. After that, we flash back to when she presumably moves into the apartment, a tiny shoebox of a dwelling previously inhabited by a man named Anthony. The apartment remains in a lived-in state; actually, it's more a neglected state, with the floor littered with trash and grimy dishes piled high in the sink.
The woman spends some time listening to the backlogged messages on Anthony's answering machine. The mystery man's landlord, friends, and mother have crammed the inbox with messages and while the woman starts to sort out her new digs, she half-listens to their voices in the background. That's when things start getting kooky.
The visions begin during a bath scene, where she fills a giant pan with hose-water and climbs in (?!?), only to start visualizing some crazy things happening. Blood flows from her body, her surroundings go haywire, and somewhere, behind one of the heating grates, someone is watching and breathing. Reality continues to slip away from her -- and, frankly, from me -- when she has hallucinations of Anthony, splayed out against the wall. Hmmm, okay. The next thing I know, he's got her naked, over his shoulder, laying on some kind of wrestling move. Things get progressively weirder, the visions get nuttier, the woman goes hog-wild with sugar, and she ends up in a suitcase.
Basically, it's a 72-minute Tool music video.
Look, I'll be the first to admit films like Sugar aren't my deal. As an experiment in visual creepiness, I think the film is about as creative and viscerally affecting as any indie horror film I've ever seen. But as a coherent film I can wrap my head around, it wasn't doing anything for me. Some of the imagery directors Reynold Reynolds and Patrick Jolley were able to cook up are truly remarkable, and there are some fantastic camera shots everywhere. It is a treat for the eyes, no matter how hard it hurts the brain, and my reaction to it is more of an instinctual emotional reflex; Sugar transmitted tangible insanity and unnerving claustrophobia in this viewer.
My pair of pennies: I think this film was really just an expanded horror short -- on metabolic steroids. I could see this running only about 20 minutes and still packing a punch. Though the film is fairly brief at about 70 minutes, the silent (there are barely any spoken words) and hugely strange progression of events tended to grow monotonous. It would be interesting to see an abbreviated Sugar.
Anywho -- Sugar is a relatively interesting flick and a funhouse of full-throttle visual insanity for anyone looking for a postmodern excursion into hysteria.
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Scales of Justice
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 72 Minutes
Release Year: 2006
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Still Gallery