Judge Brett Cullum has a doggie treat for you, if you're good...
Believe the unbelievable!
Somehow, this movie plays out as if David Lynch and Dario Argento got together to revamp Stephen King's Kingdom Hospital. And I never thought anything could out-weird Lars Von Trier's Riget (a.k.a. The Kingdom, its U.S. title). Well, here it is…a cinematic nightmare worthy of the Lynch or Argento label, Beg!. And it's picked up by Troma? Wonders never cease.
Facts of the Case
Based on a play (!!!?!!!), Beg! takes you deep into the evil heart of the filthy, decrepit St. Caninus Hospital. The medical facility features its own vivisection ward in the basement, as well as a smoky jazz club on its main floor. A mysterious murder happens inside, the victim found with a live dog sewn up inside him. The puppy breaks out through the stomach, promising a scene that might be more at home in an [b]Alien[/b] sequel. And you thought "one sick puppy" was just a phrase, didn't you, gentle film fan? In the middle of all this nastiness we find Dr. Penelope Second (Peta Lily). Her lover was the murder victim, and it happens the same night her father has a heart attack. She's having a bad day. Along comes Sergeant Stiltskin (Phillip Pellew) who might as well reveal his first name is "Rumple." The detective is controlled by a bald man who speaks to him from somewhere else through a hearing aid device. Add to this a "woman's only" ward proposed by Penelope, which has all the misogynist male doctors in a tizzy, and you can bet someone's going to end up with a purebred show dog inside them before it's all over. And someone will have to beg for their lives.
Are you a fan of trippy, beautiful images and gore? You're gonna love this. You like movies to make sense, and thought Donnie Darko was a Rorschach test? Then run for the nearest set of hills. Beg! makes about as much sense as a three-day mescaline binge with a side order of LSD and chaser shots of peyote and angel dust. Welcome to PCP-laced cinema, kiddies—hope you feel right at home. It was all directed by a maniac named Robert Golden, who also offered us 2002's The Lake. Dario Argento and David Lynch both called me to explain the plot, and I had to hang up on both of them. Beg! takes a certain mindset to get through, and even hardened veterans of Mulholland Dr. and Suspiria are going to cry buckets of confused tears.
Visually, the film ranks right up there with Jean-Pierre Jeunet and Marc Caro's City of Lost Children or Delicatessen. If you can swim past the shallow, fractured plot, you'll drown in the dreamy visuals. Honestly, the film is a feast for the eyes (no matter how clichéd and trite that sounds). Like tone poetry set in motion, it ebbs and flows nicely, with a conscious emphasis on overstating every aspect. Beg! seems to be angling itself into the Grand Guingol tradition of bizarre horrific images for their own sake and sanctity. Fever dreams are more coherent than this, but rarely as beautiful. There's sex, death, doctors, and dogs aplenty.
Is there any meaning behind all this miasma? There are many loose themes, such as the strange second-class treatment of women, the way men act like dogs, and an intrigue that pierces everything. A lot of sexual politics mingle with interoffice struggles. But don't expect much to come clear; just enjoy the ride for what it is. It's too hard to enter a mystery where absolutely nothing and no one is what they seem even for a fleeting second. The symbols swirl, the colors ache, but still we come no clearer to closure or conventional narrative. Yet there is an ending here that makes quite a bit of sense, so in the end there is method to the madness. It's a brilliant little film with a lot of questions, but one satisfying answer at least.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
What a shame such a visually interesting movie is shown in a fullscreen letterbox presentation, the likes of which I haven't seen since VHS. Literally, you are looking at a 4:3 image with letter boxing around it, so forget punching up a widescreen option for your new widescreen high definition television. To add insult to injury the transfer looks quite soft, but at least the print is clean with some nice color saturation. Don't look to the sound for much help either. It's a simple stereo mix which often overstates or understates the musical score inappropriately. Sometimes music drowns dialogue; in other scenes it is barely audible when nothing else is happening. Troma is the distributor, and they seem to give Beg! "B-film" treatment when it would benefit from a strong technical presentation. Also, a film this obtuse deserves some extras, but all we get are Troma promos and an introduction from CEO Lloyd Kaufman, which are only intrusive.
This cinematic mongrel dares to paint visions and exercise style above all else. Beg! may or may not be your cup of tea, but it certainly is fiercely original moviemaking. If you're a visual addict, you've found your dose of crack for the evening. But if you abhor the absurd, prepare to flinch like Dracula biting down a bulb of garlic. Troma shows their commitment to independent spirit by releasing the film, but what a pity they don't give it any more respect than a Kabuki Cop sequel.
Guilty of…dog runs by…pointless sex scene in grimy fluorescent hallway…funny music…and a close up of an eyeball. You know a lot about fish, don't you? Anatomy lessons. Cruel, but interesting. Same as last time. Same as last time. Same as last time.
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