I’ve been following Evan Glodell’s debut film Bellflower ever since its premiere at Sundance earlier this year in January. Something about the film really struck me as being unique in the pile of Indies that hit the festival circuit every year. Let’s face it. It’s probably the black muscle car with flamethrowers named Medusa that appears in the trailer. The car is just one aspect of the preparation for the apocalypse the main two characters are obsessed with. Evan plays Woodrow, a twenty-somethingCalifornia transplant from Wisconsin who is best friends with Aiden who can guzzle down a pitcher of beer by himself when need be—mostly to impress chicks.
That is where the film starts off with Woodrow and Aiden impressing a group of girls at bar. Ready to have a good time Woodrow is paired against Milly, a cute blonde female that could be described as a firecracker, to see who can eat the most crickets for a measly 50-dollar gift certificate. After the contest, Woodrow is smitten by her brazen personality and asks if he can take her out to dinner and she complies.
The two begin a relationship that really is the heart of the film. The relationship could have went down any various route of Hollywood clichés with the first date but Milly wants Woodrow to take her to the filthiest, scariest hole in the wall he’s ever been to. This lets Woodrow and us know she’s not what we expected. The film itself reveals itself much the same way. I was expecting a Mad Max inspired spinoff of testosterone and Jackass-style shenanigans which the film features but totally undermines the journey and tragedy of the characters.
Bellflower explores the id of the American male and the reality that what desire most can be dangerous. Although Woodrow and Aidan’s apocalypse isn’t manifested in brimstone, fallen skyscrapers or arena-style cage matches to the death, the trappings of love and jealousy are just as treacherous. The best part of this film is Woodrow’s transformation not only physically but emotionally and psychologically. By the last frame of the film I barely recognized him as the clean-shaven happy-go-lucky guy from the first part of the movie. It’s difficult to imagine it is the same actor but that’s what any great film or TV series should be able to do: take a character you think you know or love and have life and all its forces shape them into something without it seeming forced or unearned.
The film itself is art imitates life in the sense that the movie was shot on a custom made camera that the filmmakers built themselves, a camera called the Coatwolf Model II. Throughout the film we see various builds and stages of production of the flamethrowers and pyrotechnics that the characters are developing similarly titled Medusa Model I. It is interesting to note that the filmmakers could be perceived as reckless as their subjects as during the production the low-budget crew risked an explosion if the working flamethrower exhaust malfunctioned. There is even a report of the flames from the Medusa car almost burning down power lines in the area they were filming. Autobiographical or not Bellflower comes off truly authentic or at least earnest in the films portrayal of the inherent danger in living your fantasies on or off screen.
The film is much like riding in a fast car, at times nerve-wracking and seemingly out of control but mostly adrenaline inducing titillation and addictive. I’m ready for the sequel Bellflower: Beyond Thunderdome.
Evan Glodell will be in attendance at the screening on November 9th at 6:00 p.m. as a part of the Little Rock Film Festival’s Argenta Film Series at the Argenta Community Theater in North Little Rock.