New Releases for Tuesday, July 14, 2020
Directed by: Derek Ahonen
Run time: 96 minutes
The Lowdown: Discovering an obscure, low-budget indie production often can feel like mining for gold.
It’s an arduous process, fraught with many more misses than hits, but when you actually stumble across a winner, it’s difficult to resist the urge to call out, ‘Eureka!’
New from Indican Pictures this week, The Transcendents feels like such a discovery.
Writer-director Derek Ahonen’s debut feature is nearly impossible to categorize, and the fact that its marketing campaign worked overtime to position The Transcendents as some kind of weird cult-centric thriller is entirely misleading.
Yes, the film does feature a pseudo-cult, but Ahonen is much more interested in exploring a trio of extreme personalities, and individuals, mired in addiction and unable to break the chains of the past to move forward with progress.
As a warning, BVB strongly advises that casual viewers entirely ignore the film’s synopsis on IMDb. Here’s the gist in a nutshell:
Roger (Rob Franco) strikes out on his own to locate the members of a once-popular band called The Transcendents who are now 10 years past their heyday.
His journey is prompted by a strange, cult-like leader who target practices with a rifle on mannequins labeled “ATF,” and who believes that Roger is due a raft of royalty payments given that Roger wrote all of the bands songs and was never paid a penny.
Roger finds the bar where the band first started playing shows, and is taken in by the brash owner, Jan (Kathy Valentine, The Go-Gos), who is caring for her sister Cecilia, now a mute quadriplegic.
Through flashbacks, viewers learn how Roger, a borderline sociopath, came to meet his band mates Kim (Savannah Welch) and Foster (Ben Reno).
The Transcendents is not fast-paced. At times, the urge to fast-forward becomes almost unbearable. But Ahonen peppers his script with bursts of oddly beautiful insight, such as when Jan explains that Cecilia only meets the wrong kind of guys since her accident, the ones who only want a handjob and then leave.
Or when Roger explains to Kim and Foster why he recoils from physical contact.
“Girls don’t like me. I was molested. Often. So, when people touch me, I go cold and my mind detaches from my body.”
The Transcendents may well be the first movie to focus on a band that never shows the band actually playing music and refuses to tease even a snippet of a song.
Again, Ahonen seems much more interested in human melodies, the strange notes that broken people sing through their actions instead of their voices.
When the band confronts Roger about his inability to write enough songs to fill an album, he confesses that he is but a passenger, waiting on his muse. And then he pulls a mouse from his breast pocket, and credits the creature with gifting him the only songs he’s written so far.
The next scene, Roger tells Kim that he let the mouse go.
“Those were all the songs he had in him,” he says. “I set him free.”
By free, of course, he means he killed the mouse, which is one of the film’s darkest undertones.
Which is why when Roger, early on, confides in Jan his plan once he rediscovers his band mates – he intends to kill them – it’s difficult to gauge his sincerity.
The Transcendents rarely strives to answer the questions it presents. More than anything, it seems content to chart the course of Roger’s awakening from a decade-long absence.
But there is a message that comes through, low and soft, like a far-off radio whose song can only be heard if you cock your head and strain your ears.
That message seems to be that we are all capable of transcending the path we appear to be on, of rising above societal labels, of finding peace by going against our violent natures and defying conventional expectations.
The Stuff You Care About: Hot chicks – Savannah Welch is smoking hot.
Nudity – Yes. Gore – No.
Drug use – Gratuitous.
Bad Guys/Killers – It’s more about not becoming the bad guy.
Buy/Rent – Rent it.
Kiss of the Vampire: Collector’s Edition
Now on Video-on-Demand:
Coven (Uncork’d Entertainment, 80 minutes, Unrated, Video-on-Demand): Oh look, it’s another movie about witches that wants to pretend like you haven’t already rewatched The Craft two dozen times.
There's even a Fairuza Balk look-alike for good measure. As the lead witch bitch.
No amount of creative camerawork or an ambitious display of editing prowess can hide the fact that Coven is like three-day-old leftovers, reheated with a splash of salt, which still is not enough to mask the stale taste.
Not to be Overlooked:
Evil: Season One (CBS Home Entertainment, 553 minutes, Unrated, DVD): Color me completely surprised, but I’m here to tell you that one of 2019’s best new shows resides at CBS, of all networks.
Evil, which plays like a modern-day reimagining of The X-Files, if Mulder and Scully had worked for the Vatican instead of the FBI, hails from Michelle and Robert King, who created popular legal dramas like The Good Wife and its spinoff, The Good Fight.
Propelled by the pairing of scientist Kristen Bouchard (Katja Herbers) and theologist David Acosta (Mike Colter), with a welcome helping hand from resident skeptic Ben Shakir (Assif Mandvi), Evil’s first season delved into a host of religious mysteries, some familiar (possession) and some not (Christ-like callings derived from psychedelics), that Kristen, David and Ben were tasked with debunking.
But the show’s meatiest subplot focused on a creepy psychiatrist, Leland Townsend (the always dependable Michael Emerson), who just might be the devil incarnate, worming his way into Kristen’s home by wooing her mother, Sheryl (Christine Lahti).
Evil isn’t splashy like the similarly themed, and much shorter-lived, Miracles (which aired for one season in 2003 on rival ABC), but it’s intelligent, well-paced and packed with unexpected surprises.
And Colter and Herbers have great chemistry, which definitely helps, especially since Evil has made their will-they, won’t-they romance no secret since its second episode.