|At WALT DISNEY WORLD,|
eating Emu Masquerading as Turkey
offers unexpected opportunities.
Dir. Randy Moore
Starring: Roy Abramsohn, Elena Schuber, Katelynn Rodriguez, Jack Dalton,
Alison Lees-Taylor, Stass Klassen,
Danielle Safady, Annet Mahendru
Review By Greg Klymkiw
Much as I am wont to complain about contemporary movies, I still tend to see a fair number of good and even great pictures. A more rare event is discovering work that's unlike anything I've ever seen, or at the very least is imbued with such originality that I can safely remove my Mr. Grumpy Hat in homage to a picture that restores my faith in cinema.
Randy Moore's debut feature Escape From Tomorrow did just that. Made for well under a million smackers, this is a movie that shocked, awed, tantalized, disturbed and delighted me to no end.
I recently caught up with it on DVD, this being about a year and a half after its world premiere at Sundance. Knowing only about the movie's festival pedigree and that it had something to do with Walt Disney I was afforded my preferred semi-virginal mode of seeing movies. This is just the sort of unfurling that joyously allowed me a most revelatory experience of discovery.
As an extraordinarily creepy and absurdly funny head trip, shot secretly on location at both Disney Parks, it did indeed hold its own with any number of my favourite cult films like El Topo, Pink Flamingos, Eraserhead, Liquid Sky, Mixed Blood, Pi, Primer, God Bless America and American Mary. Indeed the picture certainly works on a purely experiential level. One can just sit back and let it all happen, with or without hallucinogenic stimulants.
On a deeper level, this avant-garde nightmare vision of a trip to Walt Disney World gone seriously wrong is a fascinating and disquieting exploration of the new America, providing a slice of the external and internal life of a consumerism-happy upper middle class family on the brink of crisis and ultimately, plunging free-fall into the chasm of loss and deep despair.
On yet another level altogether, the movie delivers a wrenching portrait of Jim White (Roy Abramsohn) a late-thirty-early-forty-something corporate executive's spiritual death during the last day of a vacation in the famed resort with his wife (Elena Schuber) and kids (Jack Dalton, Alison Lees-Taylor) after getting the unexpected news that he's been fired. Needless to say, this is a shocker and he keeps the news to himself as he and his dependents sally forth into the maw of the wonderful world of Disney.
We already know something is amiss as the family boards the above-ground rail transport from their resort hotel to the park when Jim notices a pair of gorgeous frolicking teenage girls from Paris (Danielle Safady, Annet Mahendru). His gaze is clearly inappropriate and he still has enough of his marbles to try and keep his attraction to the Gallic missies all to his lonesome.
Once at the park, though, the jabbering nubile lassies appear to be everywhere.
After Jim and his family enjoy a few activities together, it's decided to split up for awhile in order to make the most of this final day of the Disney experience. Mother and Daughter go off on their own while Father and Son are left to their own devices - namely, a ludicrously long wait at the Buzz Lightyear ride. Time halts as they move an inch or two towards the seemingly unreachable ride and during this hour, the ladies go on ride after ride while Father and Son eventually get to the head of the line only to be told that Buzz Lightyear is being shut down for the day due to maintenance issues.
Eventually Mom and Dad hook up to switch their spawn for more fun. Though, Jim's experience with his son has proven to be mostly frustrating, it was indeed dappled with more than a few mild forays into surrealism. Now that he's with his daughter, though, his point of view becomes more skewed than ever. The movie begins spiralling into sheer insanity as he encounters a weird, horny single mother (Alison Lees-Taylor) who begins her seduction by noting that the turkey leg he's gobbling is actually an emu leg. Later on, Jim may or may not have had sex with the woman while his daughter and Horny Mama's child sleep in another room. He also discovers that a prostitution ring exists on the premises involving Disney Princess Hostesses servicing Japanese businessmen. Most terrifyingly, Jim's hallucinations result in losing sight of his daughter.
The day seems to never end and if any of this sounds vaguely perverse, you ain't, in the immortal words of BTO, seen nothin' yet. You see, you, along with our protagonist will have not yet met with the mysterious Scientist de la Disney (Stass Klassen) who performs rather unpleasant experiments upon Jim within the Epcot Centre, nor will you experience the horrendous, yet equally magical transformation of the Horny Mama into the wicked witch sharing a poison apple with Daddy dearest's little girl and certainly, amongst an infinitesimal array of surreal twists and turns within a Floridian Disney park merging seamlessly with the Californian park you'll you'll have not been barraged with the truly terrifying rides aplenty, especially the malevolent (YES! MALEVOLENT!) "It's a Small World" ride merging with positively demonic transmogrifications of all that is seemingly good and lest we forget, those damned pesky Tinkerbell-like teenage sexpots from Gay Par-ee.
And then, under a night sky emblazoned by the most staggering display of fireworks, there will be the literally gut-wrenching effects of a feline flu raging throughout Disney's wonderful world, though more likely in Jim's Disney-fied diseased mind, driving Dad to the Holy Disney shrine to privacy, the all-devouring Throne of Uncle Walt, a Holy Disney Porcelain Receptacle waiting for all manner of vile, putrid expulsions of faecal poison and viscous globs needing to be expunged with undue levels of pain and hardship.
And, of course, there are those goddamned hairballs.
Indeed, I defy you to recall a motion picture in recent memory of such swirling audacity and wading neck-deep amidst the outright horror of a world crushed under the weight of that benevolent moustachioed gentleman who grew up on a farm in Marceline, Missouri which sprouted the mind and imagination which eventually captured the fancy and drained the pocketbooks of the whole world, the one, the only, Walter Elias Disney.
Escape from Tomorrow is not unlike gazing directly into the ghastly monochromatic truths revealed by the atrociously repellent, yet interminably revelatory mirror, mirror. You know, the mirror, mirror on the wall.
Don't say I didn't warn you.
Escape from Tomorrow is a FilmsWeLike release and available on Blu-Ray and DVD via Amazon and at all fine video retailers. Feel free to purchase the film directly from the links below and thus contribute to the ongoing maintenance of The Film Corner.