PUFF 2018: The God Inside My Ear and Rock Steady Row
The God Inside My Ear (dir. Joe Badon)
According to Linnea Gregg, the star of The God Inside My Ear, the budget for this quirky thriller was a mere $8000.00. Certainly every cent was put into the marvelously beautiful film, but that still doesn’t account for just how excellent the film looks. A movie this sharp should cost at least ten times the purported budget, but alas, Joe Badon has managed to pull it off with less cash than it takes to buy a shitty car. Movies like this one are precisely why I love coming to PUFF every year. Where else can you discover a filmmaker such as Badon, whose imagination and technique exceed the limitations faced by truly independent productions?
The God Inside My Ear begins innocently enough when young Elizia is blindsided by a breakup. Her boyfriend has suddenly decided to join a cult, and like that, he’s gone. Elizia is left in tatters, unsure of how to move forward with her newly upended life. Sure, she’s got a great group of friends to help her navigate the waters of single living, but they can’t really be of any help when Elizia starts receiving strange phone calls from a voice that knows a little bit too much about her mental state, or when she starts having apocalyptic visions of macabre control rooms, creepy figures, and scenes from the past. Soon reality begins to bend out of control, and Elizia is rocketing down a pathway toward self-discovery, self-destruction, or both. Add to that the normal, everyday stressors of being abandoned by a significant other in an unforgiving world, and it’s no wonder that Elizia is teetering on the edge of sanity.
There’s also an incredible talking dog. No lie, he’s one of the best I’ve ever seen.
Trippy in a Lynchian way, albeit with a little more of a mumblecore angle, The God Inside My Ear is an incredible showcase for Badon as a writer/director, as well as for its star, whose face is so expressive that it could be a special effect of its own. Linnea Gregg captures the horror and the humor of her ever-changing mental state with a clinical pathos, while never betraying the task of providing entertainment. Kudos abound to cinematographer Daniel Waghorne, who managed to make this microbudget film look anything but.
Simply put, creativity and imagination always make for a great movie, even when resources are limited.
Rock Steady Row (dir. Trevor Stevens)
It’s a little bit The Warriors, a little bit Six String Samurai, and even a touch of The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly, but to compare this too heavily with anything else would be to deny the originality on display. Rock Steady Row imagines an alternate future where those lucky enough to go to college have much more to worry about than just grades and loans. Even though Rock Steady University is a great place to learn, students still have to find a way to get to class without being killed. In this imaginary future(?), life on campus has become a free for all, with no governing body even remotely interested in providing a safe environment. Students are crammed into subpar dorms like sardines, while dueling fraternities fight for power by stealing and reselling bicycles.
At RSU, the only way to get around campus safely is on a bike, but if you turn your back for even a second too long, your ride will be repossessed by members of Kappa Brutus Omega (jocks) or The High Society (nerds). Yeah, you can file a complaint with school administration, but doing so is a waste of time. All they care about is the imaginary dollar sign floating above each student’s head. The two warring fraternities revel in dishonesty as they vie for power, oftentimes resorting to deadly violence in order to maintain superiority. But when Leroy, an independent new freshman has his bike stolen on the very first day of school, he embarks on a karate-filled adventure to dismantle the gangs, and shake up the scholastic power structures in any way he can.
Featuring elements of Kung-fu, westerns, and the college comedies of the 1980s, this little gem throws so much at the wall that it’s hard not to enjoy even its sillier moments. It’s also quite easy to jibe with the illogical (at least on a larger scale) rules of the world. The denizens of Rock Steady University all embrace this reality, and the audience should too. Questions like “why does anyone in this world even go to college anyway?” are pointless to ask, and really, if there is a point being made by the filmmakers, it’s to ponder that very thought. It appears, at least to me, a community college graduate with no student loan debt, that Rock Steady Row is an indictment of the contemporary college system, in which young people throw down money they don’t have on an experience with an outcome so unsure that it could accurately be called a gamble. That said, this is a pretty charitable read, as it also could be true that the filmmakers are just seeking an avenue to exhibit considerable cinematic style in a fun, often very funny way. Rock Steady Row is a solid PUFF entry, and it’s this year’s most “ass-kicking” film for sure!