Rhinoceros Eyes

Canadian filmmaker Aaron Woodley knows where to look for inspiration: His debut feature bears the stamp of Richard Kelly's enigmatic DONNIE DARKO, the stop-motion animation of Jan Svankmajer and Dennis Potter's Hollywood fever dreams. The surprise is how utterly original his gorgeously mounted curiosity seems. Orphaned autistic savant Chep (Michael Pitt)...read more

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Reviewed by Ken Fox
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Canadian filmmaker Aaron Woodley knows where to look for inspiration: His debut feature bears the stamp of Richard Kelly's enigmatic DONNIE DARKO, the stop-motion animation of Jan Svankmajer and Dennis Potter's Hollywood fever dreams. The surprise is how utterly original his gorgeously mounted curiosity seems. Orphaned autistic savant Chep (Michael Pitt) lives deep within a cavernous prop warehouse in a shadowy, nameless city. Prop House proprietor Bundy (Matt Servitto) claims Chep's been there for the past three years, memorizing the cluttered contents of his new home; if you ever need a 50-pound cherry, ask Chep. Chep only emerges to catch yet another screening of the overheated melodrama "The Sweltering Squaddee;" on the way home he peers into his neighbors' windows, watching as an ancient movie chorine (Jackie Burroughs) beats her luckless husband (Reginald Dorsea) with her wooden arm. To Chep, the imaginary reality of movies is more real than the outside world, and one night he meets a beautiful stranger who seems to share his point of view. An art director who takes her job very seriously, Fran (Paige Turco) believes every detail of the illusion must be as real as possible, but she's in a fix: She needs to find a pair of real rhinoceros eyes. The Prop House has a set, but they're on loan to an arty blue production called "Betty Bumcakes." To make good on his promise that Fran will have them by the following night, Chep, hidden under a disconcertingly life-like Tor Johnson mask, crashes the "Betty Bumcakes" set and grabs the orbs. Eternally grateful, Fran tells Chep she now needs an even more obscure item: a 1930s wooden prosthetic arm. Smitten, Chep knows exactly where to find one. His little crime spree soon catches the attention of a police detective (Gale Harold), but Chep has bigger problems: He's being tormented by a strange creature that spontaneously assembles itself out of various bits of Prop House junk — doll parts, electrical sockets, buttons — and is warning Chep to watch his step. The son of costume designer Denise Cronenberg and nephew of horror master David Cronenberg, Woodley was raised amid all the artifice of filmmaking; as a tyke, Woodley even appeared as a "child of rage" in his uncle's 1979 shocker THE BROOD. It's hardly surprising that his view from inside the dream factory should resemble the nightmares of a disturbed child, and nowhere is this more apparent than in the chilling execution of his little junk figures. Animated on the cheap via digital still photography, they're threatening enough to give the Brothers Quay themselves the creeps.

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  • Released: 2004
  • Rating: R
  • Review: Canadian filmmaker Aaron Woodley knows where to look for inspiration: His debut feature bears the stamp of Richard Kelly's enigmatic DONNIE DARKO, the stop-motion animation of Jan Svankmajer and Dennis Potter's Hollywood fever dreams. The surprise is how u… (more)

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