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07 August, 2010

The Unimonster's Crypt Screening Room: WANDERLOST


Date of Theatrical Release:  2009

MPAA Rating:  Unrated Festival Version

[Ed. note:  At the recent Famous Monsters Convention in Indianapolis (see my Convention write-up above), this film from director / co-writer / producer David Kabler was one of the features selected for screening.  Due to a prior commitment, I was unable to attend the screening, so the filmmaker was kind enough to provide the Crypt with a copy of the film for review.  I would like to express my sincere appreciation for this kindness, which allows me to bring this review to my readers.]

One of the advantages of low-budget, independent filmmaking is just that: it’s independent.  The filmmaker, freed from the restraints of corporate oversight and the need to balance artistic imagination with commercial appeal, is able to give free rein to that imagination, and bring his unique vision to the screen—within the limits of his resources, of course.

The end result is frequently an intensely personal film, one that reflects the artist’s own hopes and fears, dreams and nightmares.  And the consequence of this is that not everyone will enjoy the film, or feel that it has a personal message for them.  That’s not a negative—these films aren’t designed to appeal to the mass market.  But when such a film does connect with a viewer, then the filmmaker’s vision is fully realized.

WANDERLOST is a surreal, bizarre journey through a nightmare world, one characterized by a ruined and decaying urban landscape.  The central figure is a drifter, traveling across country by hopping railroad freight cars.  His existence by its very nature is a solitary one, and one gathers that that is by choice.  Through flashbacks, the viewer is made aware of the character’s painful childhood as the victim of repeated, ritualized abuse.

Frequent cutaways introduce the viewer to other characters, each of whom seem to exist in a world apart from the others.  One of these is a graffiti artist who we watch as he creates an image on a brick wall.  He says nothing, simply stands at the wall creating his art.

There’s very little more I can say to describe the plot of the movie; not for fear of divulging too much, but because, quite frankly, I’m not sure there is a plot.  The film is visually equivalent to free-form verse; a series of random vignettes connected tenuously by a thread of horrific imagery.  Filmed in Asheville, North Carolina, it’s very well done from a technical viewpoint, and the photography, by co-writer Daniel Judson, is excellent.  Artistically, it serves very well the bleak, blighted mood of the piece, as does the various urban locations.  Kabler did a superb job designing the production to emphasize the isolation and alienation of the lead character, and on an emotional level, the film is quite successful at evoking the desired responses from the audience.

However, I’m someone who prefers some degree of linear reality to films.  While I can appreciate the artistic vision behind the film, and the quality of the execution of that vision, that alone is not enough to entertain me.  I need a story.  I’m a writer—words are my medium.  They are, in the final analysis, what I relate to, what I understand the best.  If the story doesn’t captivate me, then the most beautifully filmed, professionally produced movie is nothing more than a beautiful failure.  I wish that I could say otherwise about WANDERLOST.  Unfortunately, I can’t.

But that is merely my personal opinion of the film.  And, as I stated before, that’s the advantage of Indie films, and one of the reasons I’m such a fan of the form.  It doesn’t need to appeal to the masses; it succeeds, or fails, on an individual basis.  It’s art, not commerce, and just because it failed with the Unimonster means nothing if it succeeds with you.

To the best of my knowledge, there’s yet to be a DVD release announced for the film, so the best option for finding it is to go direct to the source and contact Kabler through his web-site, http://www.WANDERLOSTfilm.com.  So do what I did, and judge this film for yourself.  You may share my opinion.  You may not.  But how will you know unless you try it?

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