There’s a stereotype of reviewers – be it food, fashion or film – that if the opinion is bad, then writing it must have been fun. You can get creative with constructive criticism to the point at which the insults and put-downs are more entertaining to read than a positive piece of fluff. Not caring about something is cool, genuine, funny. I think that’s true if the reviewer’s subject is bigger-budget, and if the criticism is lobbed towards the higher-paid decision-makers rather than the union workers who just worked hard.
So I actually don’t like saying that I didn’t like a film that is demonstrably a no-budget family affair (the giveaway being the mostly singular surname in the very short end credits) and is at least trying to do something off-kilter, stylised and high-concept. The film in question being the intriguingly titled: Sustainable Life with Unlimited Transformations.
Directed, written by, and mostly starring Brian Vadim, this is already a bit too much for one person, but the plot is simple: a modern-day Dr Frankenstein-type scientist, who has turned himself into one of several human-pig hybrids (referred to imaginatively in the film’s opening card as ‘pumans’), seeks to resurrect his wife via an experiment with three mannequins, a tub of jellyfish, his masked, wigged nephew and his daughter whose head lives in a TV.
While that’s the set-up, we don’t end up seeing much actual experimentation, but instead a series of vignettes of things like bathroom visits that sound like if Niagara Falls was made of cannons, and conversations between TV Girl and the aforementioned jellyfish in some kind of perverted vuvuzela screeching language.
On paper, those scenes might have had some delightfully spooky punch, but they’re are ruined by the overlay of some fucking awful hair metal songs that are poorly mixed in and are at complete odds with the quietly weird tone the film had been building. Even without scanning the credits, it’s clear these songs are either by the filmmakers or by the filmmakers’ mates, but they don’t belong in this film. Music videos can be made separately.
Worse still is the dialogue, which is repeatedly repetitive even if you take out the echoes, the delivery of which is stilted and unnatural, made even worse by the use of voice-modulation and vocoder techniques, presumably to make the hybrids sound less human.
At 51 minutes, there’s not much time to get attached to anything but, due to its singular setting (and low lighting and black-and-white colour likely hiding a multitude of photography sins), the pace drags. There are even technical issues at play: The make-up on TV Girl isn’t even. The subtitled dialogue has different fonts, as well as spelling and spacing errors. The vignettes are broken up into ‘episodes’ (??) using title cards, but they seem to have forgotten to include one for ‘episode 1’.
Unfortunately, there’s very little to recommend here. Someone wanted to make something very high-concept, with influences probably from Get Out, Un Chien Andalou, Frankenstein, and perhaps every title ever covered on Mystery Science Theatre 3000. It’s too cheap and weak in every technical and artistic way to be so self-indulgent and whatever it’s trying to say is lost in trying so hard. I’d have more sympathy if the filmmaker/star/everything person was a young first-timer treading the water, but this person is older, has a film reel on IMDb (though he spelled ‘Vietnam’ wrong) and is maybe trying to run before they can walk so that they can catch up.