From Oscilloscope Laboratories, the strange, independent studio that is known for their often intriguing and bizarre films, comes an offering this is certain to perplex and bewilder audiences. Of course, this should come as no surprise anyone familiar with the label. However, this new entry definitely raises more questions and never really answers them. Though the movie’s weird and strange approach to the themes can be interesting at times, it also left me rather dissatisfied and frustrated with its end product. In addition, the film has a certain predictability to its proceedings and a transparency that is all too obvious and feels like a retread of movies that examine the dark side of humanity.
Suzanne Wuest stars as Maria Barbizan, an unhappy woman who is completely dissatisfied with her life and job. At the beginning of the movie, Maria totally abandons everything that is part of her current life and seeks a new path that she hopes will give her purpose in this world. When she is at her lowest, she gets approached by an odd older gentleman named Homunculus (Julian Richings) who claims that he has the solution to all of her troubles. Homunculus invites Maria to join a contest where the prize is a brand new, “habanero orange” SUV. Though this seems, not at all, what Maria is seeking, she is intrigued with the premise of the contest and where it will take her.
When she arrives, she meets her competitiors–the driven and ruthless Felice Arkady (Cara Ricketts), the douchebag businessman Andrew Frisbee, Jr (Christian Serritiello), muscle-head and supplement salesman Bofill Pancreas (George Tchortov), and the weak and spineless musician Adam Jumpcannon (Adam Brown). Even though the contest starts off rather simply and seemingly harmless, each challenge Homunculous presents to the group gets more harrowing and raises the stakes even higher.
So, if the the premise sounds rather familiar, that’s because we, the audience, have already seen other stories in movies similar to this one. The film does have a simple, quirky style of its own, but never takes the audience to places that other movies haven’t already tackled. On top of these issues, the filmmakers never deliver any satisfying answers as to who is behind the contest and their motivations for doing so. Written and directed by Matthew McCabe-Lokos, who co-wrote the film with Rob Benvie, Stanleyville is somewhat interesting, but feels incomplete.
The movie features a mostly solid cast who perform well enough, but the writing of their characters never, at all, develops them well-enough to make them compelling or interesting. In addition, I feel that the filmmakers rely on the shock-value that they are hoping to impart on their audiences, but I never found the more nasty moments all that surprising. Overall, Stanleyville is an utter disappointment to me, as I have usually found much enjoyment and excitement in the usually subversive offerings that Oscilloscope Laboratories has previously provided.