Monday, October 3, 2016

There's something wrong with this place

If you ever get the chance, look up the story of Centralia. It's a small town in Pennsylvania that has been all but abandoned after a series of awful decisions led to what some would call an outright environmental disaster. Basically, the town sits on an underground mine fire, one that's potentially going to keep burning for the next two-hundred years.

Basement walls were hot to the touch, the ground began to crack, a sinkhole opened and tried to eat a kid, and as a result the state bought the whole town and told everbody to f--k off.

Not all of them did.

Apparently, a handful of people, not concerned about their health (or the fact that the town has been taken off maps), still live there today.

Sounds like a great setting for a scary movie, right? About that...

As the only feature in Block E at the Harrisburg-Hershey Film Festival last month, Lotus Eyes certainly had my attention. Set in a future ten years after peak oil (and filmed in and around Centralia), director Joshua Land's film feels appropriately desolate and unstable. But, unfortunately, it also feels aimless and decidedly low-stakes.

Simon is a typical teenage boy, awkward around girls and uncertain about his future. When his mom's struggling business is robbed...again, Simon decides it's time to leave his shitty, dilapidated town and head south to uncle's idyllic commune. Despite the world being in a steady state of upheaval, his uncle's farm promises plenty of work, and even more enticing, plenty of food.

After a spectacularly awful attempt at getting the local hot chick to come with him, Simon loads up his backpack and begins the journey on foot. Lucky for him (and us, as watching this dude walk around alone for eighty minutes would have had me begging for the end of the world), he quickly runs into two twenty-somethings having a bit of car trouble on their way to wherever. Though Simon can't get a girl, he's a master at revving actual engines, and the three head out to a local campsite for the evening before parting ways in the morning.

Sounds cozy, right?

Soon things go tits up, however, as some weird dudes show up and kinda/sorta go on a killing spree at the campsite. I mean, it's either a series or murders or they just empty everyone's backpacks on the ground (it's one of those). Simon is left in the lurch, as his companions basically want to cut loose and head in the opposite direction. But the oasis of Uncle Roberto's magical commune is unshakable, and for the time being, our trio reluctantly remains intact.

Speaking of reluctantly grinding it out, my wife and I were each squirming in our seats as Lotus Eyes, despite a solid premise brought to life with beautiful cinematography, became rather laborious after the initial thirty minutes or so. Sure, things consistently impede Simon and his crew along the way, but it all seems to be a nuisance rather than anything of real consequence, you know? I'm all for a leisurely stroll through a devastated American wasteland, but only when I'm walking my dog. At the movies, I'm gonna need a little bit more than garbage on the ground and a weirdo under a bridge.

Here are the Yays and Boos.

Yeah, might want to hustle out of there, kids.

  • The world of Lotus Eyes is expertly created for the most part. Even on an incredibkly modest budget, you certainly feel that something very bad has happened.
  • Man, even though it didn't make that much sense, that little respite in the beach house was all kinds of nice. Who knew drinking corn and watching public domain cartoons could be so much fun?
  • Shovel Guy/Foreman was the right kind of f--king intense. For a hippy farmer, this guy was a real prick!
  • And finally, even if I wasn't a fan, I totally respect that this cast and crew busted their balls and got this film made. Trust me, when it comes to working hard on something that not a lot of people care for (um, my audience poll consisted of two people...and I'm one of them), I got your back, you know?

Settle down there, Unc.

  • That spot's not exactly where you bring a girl, Simon. Unless you're planning on murdering her and wearing her skin over your own, that is. Oh, my bad. That was your plan, huh?
  • You start a two-hundred plus mile journey on foot and the first person you talk to is an a-hole shopkeeper? U-turn!
  • I don't care how hungry I am, Jessie, I'm not sucking on a f--king can tab to take my mind off of it. If you really want to help me out, there's at least two, maybe even three things I'd rather put in my mouth instead, okay? That should keep us both preoccupied.
  • What's up with Fight Me for My Food Guy? He's not even wagering his food vs. your food. He just wants to punch people...for fun? (wait, this is a Boo?)
  • Simon...don't ever kiss anyone again. Ever. 
  • The whole sequence to end the beach house scene was infuriating. Everyone's pissed at Simon for...what exactly? Oh, and Homeowner Guy? What the f--k, man? You're gonna shoot up your place because some vagrants ate all your kidney beans? The Hell is this?
  • Uncle Roberto, uh, who was in the house that day, was a real a-hole. The actor seemed friendly enough...but nobody asked him anything.
  • When the film ended...we were totally silent. My wife leaned over and said, Are we supposed to be clapping? I don't know, hon. But if you take your shirt off, I'll certainly applaud. (she didn't)
  • And finally, even though I wanted to get out there, that ending was a real kick in the dick. What the Hell are we looking at?

Lotus Eyes may have been filmed in Centralia, but there's actually been another film based on Centralia. I've never seen it, but apparently Silent Hill took place in a knock-off version of the abandoned Pennsylvanian town. Maybe I should check that one out for my impending month-long horror film extravaganza (which will probably start midway through October at this rate). Scary shit like that flick could have me and my wife really squirming in our seats, you know?

Just like we were at the end of Lotus Eyes.

(Except not because we were afraid)


  1. I've read about Centralia, this one definitely sounds like a skip though. At least it has a cool title.

    Silent Hill is awesome, it gets off to a really bad start mostly because the little girl isn't the best actress but stick with it. It gets better.

    1. Yeah, I hoped it would have been better, but it was bit of a tough sit. Props to the filmmakers (according to imdb, the budget was 20k?).

      I am going to try and track down Silent Hill for Halloween. Fingers crossed!

  2. I've heard of Centralia but never read up on it. I think I'll do that instead of watching this movie which, overall, sounds like a "boo."

    1. Good call on investigating Centralia. Amazing/weird/sad story you should totally check out.

      Eh, you're probably right about Lotus Eyes being a Boo...unfortunately. (I feel bad dissing it, honestly)

  3. I've got to admit the plot sounded good but yeah, I think I would have skipped out on it. However all this talk about Silent Hill has me intrigued, I'm going to have to track that title down before the end of the month...

    1. It's a super low-budget independent film, so I think it's totally spot-on to say that the idea is good, but the execution was a bit lacking. I think the filmmakers should be proud that they completed their film and it's totally coherent (and looks great)...but yeah, the story? A bit dull.

      Now, let's both check out Silent Hill! (I'm with you)

  4. Another great, funny as hell post mate :)