By: Henry J. Fromage (Three Beers) –
The Internet is a difficult phenomenon to communicate via the medium of film. In the year or so it takes to make a movie, pretty much every reference you have will be dated, and no matter how hip the filmmaker, stodginess is almost a given.
When this might be the best example yet, you know it’s difficult.
Videofilia (And Other Viral Syndromes) doesn’t really give a shit about that. Part of it may be that this is an ultra low-budget Peruvian film, a country where internet cafe business easily outstrips people with their own PCs or laptops, and a price point where polish isn’t even a consideration. The film follows Junior (Terom), a Mayan prophecy-believing wanna-be amateur porn impresario with a online girlfriend, Luz (Muki Sabogal), with her own eccentricities and ennui. As they have romantic rendezvous, drink and drug it up, and keep living their online lives, shit starts to go seriously sideways around the margins of it all.
Director Juan Daniel F. Molero musters some striking freakout imagery out of what’s clearly essentially no budget, doing so through straight ambition and a no fucks given punk rock sensibility that soon proves infectious. Videofilia feels like something out of another era, the mid-90s to be exact; maybe influenced by and somewhat a reflection of Peru’s in some ways still nascent relationship with the internet and internet culture.
There’s so much going on here…
The actors are clearly non-pros, but convincing nonetheless. Molero is able to create really naturalistic, hang-out vibe, where the weird shit that gradually takes over the film melds with the mundane in ways that just feel right. Much of the film is like a melange of what the internet itself has to offer- just shy of viral Youtube videos like Tourettes karaoke, chat roulette dicks, shakily filmed amateur punk concerts, homemade porno, dodgy cosplay and drunken parties, horrific cell-cam news clips of bombings and riots… A very real sense of unease, creeping dread, even outright paranoia starts to build through this almost beyond explanation. It’s not the plot, it’s not the cheap overlays taking over the screen, it’s not the performances, or the clear unfocused rage bubbling under the surface of it all, it’s some strange amalgam of all of the above and more, and by the end it’s all much more effective than it would seem to have any right to be.
It’s fair to ask, though… to what end? The loose plot structure means not much builds towards anything much in particular, at least not until the two or three identifiable threads converge in a pretty predictable twist- if you were paying that much attention. Videofilia is more about atmosphere and creepiness than character arcs or events, but as what at times feels like a feature-length drug freakout, it needs more visual polish or thematic coherence to hit all the targets it’s aiming for.
The Geocities website meets cell phone cam meets dying video card vibe of the onscreen graphics is admittedly pretty damn original, and covers to some extent for the low production values, but it can’t cover all of it- like the greenscreened news program that looks like something Neil Breen would be proud of.
Maybe my most anticipated film of the year, by the way…
Many elements also feel like provocation for provocation’s sake in some parts. The first post-coitus shot of a still-encondomed penis was, *ahem*, ballsy, and even arguably the most artistic shot in the whole film, but… pretty damn unsolicited.
Videofilia is the most unique film you’re likely to see this year this side of The Greasy Strangler… for (mostly) good and a tad ill.
Videofilia (2016) Drinking Game
Take a Drink: whenever the screen starts freaking out
Take a Drink: for drug use
Take a Drink: for porno (shown or made)
Take a Drink: for internet cafe visits
Do a Shot: when a chicken leg gets Killer Joed
Do a Shot: for dicks. So many dicks.