By David Dent
When Fyodor Dostoyevsky invented the troubled, existential killer Raskolnikov for his 1866 novel Crime and Punishment, little did he know that 150 and a bit years later the concept of exposing the inner workings of a killer’s mind would still be very much a backbone of popular culture in film, TV and books.
The first feature from Colin Beimis, who wrote, edited, produced and directed the oddly titled Strawberry Flavored Plastic (a term used to describe the anodyne nature of many people), is an intense, claustrophobic depiction of two independent documentary makers who decide to create a film about a killer.
The killer in question is Noel Rose (bravely played by Aidan Bristow). Mistakenly believing that Rose is a murderer who has ‘done the crime and done the time’ the filmmakers find out that in fact he is a killer who has so far escaped detection. Faced with the cessation of the movie because of Rose’s duplicity, they instead agree between themselves to carry on with the documentary, offering viewers an up close and personal profile of a self-confessed murderer.
The team are faced with all kinds of moral questions. Knowing what they know, should they turn him in? What happens if Rose acts on his impulses while filming? How safe are they from the killer’s attentions?
Although Strawberry Flavored Plastic is a very uneven film – the characters of the two filmmakers Errol Morgan (Nicholas Urda) and Ellis Archer (Andres Montajo) are at times rather unbelievable, and there are lots of pacing issues (although I suppose this goes with the territory with a film like this) – there’s also quite a lot to like.
Noel Rose is an interesting creation – eloquent, clearly nuts, but with a charm to him (he reminded me of a psychotic Phil Dunphy from the TV show Modern Family) which kept me watching. Beimis keeps most of the violence off screen, although one later scene with him letting loose at an old school chum in a restaurant is quite frightening. It’s the intensity the film achieves on occasions that keeps it interesting.
I’m not sure if the movie was that successful in ‘debating’ the issues about media violence and the cult of celebrity, but I could see what it wanted to do, and it scores points for trying. The film it most reminded me of was Julian Richards’ 2003 British found footage film The Last Horror Movie, with which it shares a complex but not unlikeable central monster.
Cautious thumbs up.