Wednesday, September 15, 2010

All My Friends Are Funeral Singers (2010, Rutili)

Rating: **

Paranormal activity is a matter of fact in All My Friends are Funeral Singers (2010) – to the extent that parts of it pose as a video shot by one of the ghosts (take that, Oren Peli). Tim Rutili’s whimsical first feature focuses on a psychic reader Zel (Angela Bettis), quietly plying her trade in a house she shares with a posse of spirits. All clad in white, they’re seen only by Zel and the audience. Occasionally rebellious against what they call imprisonment, the gang seems rather bored most of the time. They dabble in music, they shoot a video documentary, play trivia games, and discuss their post-mortem, though never shown, sex lives (and their earthly lives, as well). “I hung myself by my something blue”, says the corpse-bride in a deadpan voice, thus establishing the movie’s droll (but only partly amusing) tone.

Set in the homely purgatory presided over by the taciturn Zel – who, significantly, seals off her bedroom by sprinkling salt on the threshold, thus making at least her alcove ghost-free – the movie never really dwells on its protagonist’s feelings towards her situation or, for that matter, on that situation itself (it comes as a surprise that Zel has a boyfriend, who remains a cipher till the end).

The second half of the movie depicts the ghostly rebellion and divulges a rather unsettling secret that helps to make sense of the story – but it does so in spasms of superimposed, badly color-timed images and with virtually no attempt at building suspense. It’s a measure of the movie’s unimaginativeness that the only way the spirits mark their dissent is by making clamor with chains and sticks. The way they’re portrayed, even Rick Moranis wouldn’t have any trouble busting them for good.

Angela Bettis’ sensible performance – often hindered by awkward camera angles, as in the scene in which she channels her client’s dead husband’s voice – ultimately saves the movie. Her half-puzzled, half-purposeful demeanor, as well as her uncanny resemblance to Rachel Weisz, sustain our interest and help to swallow the final “lights-out” metaphor despite its trite, Castenada-fueled banality.

[The movie will be shown at the American Film Festival in Wrocław]

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