Judge Gordon Sullivan says shorter knights are a sign of spring.
Where the days are long, and the knights are short
I've had a crush on Allan Moyle's 1990 hit Pump Up the Volume for longer than I care to remember, but he disappeared from my radar after 1995's Empire Records, although he apparently kept making films. When I heard his latest film, Weirdsville, was going to feature drugs, Satanists, and dwarves who dressed up as knights to do medieval reenactments, I knew I had to be there. While sharing nothing in common with Pump Up the Volume, Weirdsville delivered a clever, absurdist romp that made my evening.
Facts of the Case
This movie has one of the stranger plots I've seen: junkies Dexter (Scott Speedman, Underworld) and Royce (Wes Bentley, American Beauty) are in hock to their dealer Omar (Raoul Bhaneja, Cold Creek Manor). He suggests they push drugs for him to help pay off their debt. To get the rest of the cash, their friend Matilda (Taryn Manning, Cold Mountain) suggests they rob a safe that belongs to a john she's serviced. The film then jumps forward a week: Dexter's disappeared to detox, the drugs aren't sold, the safe hasn't been robbed, and Matilda has overdosed. Royce gets Dexter to help him dispose of Matilda's body at a drive-in he used to work at. There, they encounter some Satanists who accidentally revive Matilda. This leads them to chase after Matilda and her junkie pals for the "power" in her blood. Meanwhile, Omar is looking for his money and his drugs, and the safe still needs to be robbed. And, yes, some dwarves in medieval armor appear to save the day (more than once). It's one absurd moment after another in this tale of the perils of drug use.
I loved every ridiculous, drugged-out, stupid humor moment of Weirdsville. It's a film that requires you to check your serious, logically minded self at the door, but once you do, you're in for a brisk 90-minute mixture of mystery, stoner humor, character growth, and ridiculous heights of absurdity. The interior logic of Weirdsville allows a character to call a group of dwarves doing battle with Satanists while dressed as knights "angels." Yes, it's that kind of film. Looking back, the film makes no sense, but for the hour and a half it's onscreen it's hard to notice or care, as the film effortlessly moves from surreal humor to deep emotion.
To balance the dark and light moments of the film, Moyle relies on a very capable cast. None of the actors in this film (with the exception of Matt Frewer) has done much to impress me in the past, but they own their roles in this film. Scott Speedman and Wes Bentley (as Dexter and Royce) are absolutely convincing as a pair of aimless guys who have grown up (and messed up) together since birth. Their affection for Matilda (played with angelic innocence by Taryn Manning) is palpable, which is good because it drives much of the plot. As the duo's nemesis, Greg Bryk does a pitch-perfect fussy Satanist. His role could so easily become a winking, self-aware mess, but Bryk plays Abel straight, letting us laugh at him instead of with him. The rest of the cast is extraordinary (especially for a film of this budget), but these four performances anchor the film, bringing a reality to the wacky shenanigans of the plot.
Despite the crazy adventures in the film, Weirdsville is given a surprisingly solid presentation by Magnolia Home Video. I admit, I got so drawn into the film the first time through that I didn't even notice the audiovisual quality of the feature. Looking back, however, this DVD is a fine way to watch the film. Weirdsville's low-budget origins are apparent in the slightly noisy video that appears to be a product of shooting with available light, but, as I said, the problems with the source and transfer didn't impact my enjoyment of the film in the slightest. The audio, with a clean mix of well-chosen songs and balanced dialogue, fares slightly better than the video.
Although it's not billed as a special edition, this is disc is fairly packed with extras (especially for a film that saw such limited release). The first extra is a commentary with the writer, director, and producer. It's the usual mix of production stories, technical details, and praise for the actors. These guys are obviously comfortable with each other, and with the film, so I enjoyed their reminiscences. There is some silence here and there, but overall, this is a strong track and recommended for fans of the film. There's a short film featuring the "knights" from Weirdsville in a late-night, ambulance-chaser style commercial. If you find dwarves funny, this'll have you in stitches. After that appetizer, the main course of extras is the fourteen featurettes. They're all short, but they cover most of the production, from the title of the film to individual actors. My only complaint is the lack of a "play all" button, as it was tedious to click through each of the titles.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
Although I loved Weirdsville, I know lots of people are going to hate it with equal fervor. If you don't find drug humor, Satanists, and dwarves doing medieval reenactment humorous, give Weirdsville a wide berth. If you don't like films where every single plot point stretches the bounds of credibility to the breaking point, then don't bother with this film. There were a few moments where I almost said "C'mon, how much crazier can it get?" but I was rewarded each time with a funny line or memorably strange occurrence. Others, however, might turn the film off after the first or second time the plot is driven forward by a ridiculous coincidence.
Weirdsville is a difficult film to talk about. I feel like the delicate, surreal balance of the film might be ruined by too much discussion of the specifics of the film, so I urge anyone with the slightest interest in the premise to give this little indie a shot. If it sounds like your kind of movie, chances are you'll find something to love in the film's 90 minutes of wacky adventure.
Weirdsville is found guilty of being weird, and acquitted of all other charges.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Magnolia Pictures
• Audio Commentary with Allan Moyle (Director), WilFlem Wennekers (Writer), and Nicholas Tabarrok (Producer)
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