4.01.2011

review

From MinnPost . . .

I went to an odd locally made film last night that I am going to talk about for a moment, even though, as far as I can tell, there are no immediate plans to show it anywhere else. I'm sure it will pop up again, though. The film is called "tonight, we stay indoors," and is by a local filmmaker named Joe Larsen, and he has, functionally, made an '80s slasher film, of a sort. It has all the elements, many borrowed from John Carpenter's "Halloween," including a psychotic killer, a former psychiatrist who is now hunting his patient, a series of brutal murders in a single location, and a "last girl" with a man's name, in this case Davi (Natalie Sosnay), who confronts and bests the murderer at the end. From my description, this could be any of the tens of thousands of low-budget slasher films that came out in the '80s and '90s.

Except it is nothing like them. The film seems to have been shot with the lowest budget of all — I would guess about $6 — and how do you make a slasher film when you don't even have the money for Karo syrup to double as blood? Well, you set the film after the slashing, when the last girl's life has been reduced to sitting in her apartment and occasionally going to Kmart or the Mall of America, where she goes because she is not recognized. And that's it for what we see onscreen. Come to think of it, it's all very Jennifer Ringleyish, just a series of long, static shots of a young woman doing mundane things.

But the whole of it is narrated by a vaguely distracted voice that sounds as though the narrator were speaking far too low and far too close to the microphone. The narrator seems, at first, to be a traditional omniscient, offering up detailed descriptions of Davi, her town, and the events of the murder. But the narrator is a little off — his discussions often get lost in the nuances of and minutiae of detail, which sometimes seems to offend him. At one moment, he lists every brand of Pepsi that is no longer on the market, as though their presence in our lives, and now absence, were some betrayal. And it's a long list — it goes on for minutes. Further, the narrator sometimes admits he's not sure of the facts, although he then goes on to confidently discuss the private thoughts of Davi, the survivor.

And, once in a while, his narration is interrupted by plaintive, pained singing over a spare guitar, usually while Davi does nothing much at all — in one scene, she sort of obsessively spins in place on her desk chair in front of her computer, the way children do when they are very bored and have discovered that chairs like these swivel. Sometimes when you cry you sound like you're laughing, the singer tells us, and I don't know which it is until I see your face.

All this could get to be a bit much, but Larsen has kept his film to about one hour, which is about perfect — long enough to tell an entire story, and, especially with the narrator, create and sustain an intriguing, legitimately creepy atmosphere, but not so long that these things start to show their limitations. I'd like to see more films like this, films that aren't about the sort of momentous, transformative narrative moments that filmmakers love to indulge, even when, as with slasher films, they are primarily grim fantasies.

Instead, it's really interesting to start after those moments have ended, when things have settled back into something like normalcy, watching as the characters from the big event try to figure out their lives after the fact. With Davi, she doesn't do much of anything. As the film's narrator points out, there's not much reason for her to go outside. All of her friends are dead.