Mark Christensen's no-budget science-fiction fantasy is just the sort of bizarre, homegrown artifact you'd expect to stumble across while surfing the late-night netherworld of public access television. An Orwellian parable of individual freedom vs. oppressive state control, the story unfolds in a village on a distant planet, where every aspect of life is subject to strict government regulation. Long ago during what are now referred to as "the windy days" powerful gales threatened to scour away the faces of villagers who ventured outside without protective masks. The winds have died down, but the tradition of mask wearing, which conveniently reduces the citizenry to one undifferentiated, easily governable organism, is now mandated by law. Those who dare to remove their masks and assert their individual identities a serious crime known as "surfacing" are condemned to wear bulky crates on their heads and spend the remainder of their lives slaving in village factories as "box head workers." Mr. Pulley (Don Farren) is a law-abiding, mask-wearing citizen, but there's trouble at home. His oldest daughter, Brythle (Jenny Kim), has fallen in love with Gritt (Adam Cooper), an individualistic troublemaker who dreams of establishing an unsupervised, mask-free utopia. While tooling around the desert one afternoon, Gritt and Brythle come across the burning wreckage of an alien craft and salvage a piece of its cargo: a large silver suitcase. Gritt and Brythle grab the locked case and strap it to the roof of their craft, little realizing that this mysterious box from the heavens contains the seeds of the Box Head revolution. Stylistically, Christensen seems influenced by the early videos of the masked art-rock outfit The Residents, E. Elias Merhige's BEGOTTEN and Maya Deren's avant garde shorts, and he's clearly a resourceful filmmaker. But for all his no-budget ingenuity in creating a believable alien world, his film deliberately flaunts its imperfections: The onscreen text is riddled with typos, the migraine-inducing B&W photography is often over-exposed and out of focus, the post-synchronized sound is badly looped and Christensen himself can be heard directing his actors. Adventurous and forgiving lovers of strange celluloid could do worse. Others will no doubt find the whole experience the longest 77 minutes of their lives.
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- Released: 2002
- Rating: NR
- Review: Mark Christensen's no-budget science-fiction fantasy is just the sort of bizarre, homegrown artifact you'd expect to stumble across while surfing the late-night netherworld of public access television. An Orwellian parable of individual freedom vs. oppress… (more)