STRAWBERRY FLAVORED PLASTIC
Firstly, I’d just like to say thank you to Director, Colin Bemis for allowing me early access to an online screener of his Horror/Crime/Drama film, “Strawberry Flavored Plastic”. Strawberry Flavored Plastic takes a candid and philosophical look at the life of Noel Rose (played by Aidan Bristow), an objective, mature and charming serial killer whose managed to evade authorities for years. Now at large in the suburbs of New York, Noel meets independent filmmakers, Errol Morgan and Ellis Archer (played by Nicholas Urda and Andres Montejo respectively) who arrange to document his life, his interactions and movements with the world around him in the hopes of both parties finding something deeper at the core. The film also stars Bianca Soto, Kitty Robertson and Raelynn Stueber.
Surely the title Strawberry Flavored Plastic raises questions, right? Or at the very least, peaks ones curiosity. The guys at popular horror movie website DreadCentral did a write-up recently on this debut length feature from Bemis and it got me interested in the idea of an unfiltered look at the life of a sociopath. Interestingly enough, the name does get referenced in dialogue from our lead character, Noel. It’s a unique and innocuous title for a film that is anything but (well the latter). Colin’s approach to the film was clearly to ground the events in reality, hence almost all of the footage is depicted as though it were shot by these two amateur filmmakers in Errol and Ellis. That said, a majority of DP, Yoni Shrira’s camera work is well conceived and built around simple still shots with good framing. The audio is consistently clear, and first time composer, Matt Barile utilizes some nice moody piano score for the more dramatic moments. Strawberry Flavored Plastic is quite light on violence, but due to the realistic nature of the presentation that’s not such a bad thing. There’s that sense of dread that at any moment Noel could snap, and across the course of the film you begin to see how one could potentially become captivated by the allure of his dark rabbit hole.
Strawberry Flavored Plastic is garnering so much of its attention due to the expert writing and near flawless lead performance from Aidan Bristow. There’s a series of questions being asked of the documentarian’s, and in turn the audience. For example, the opening scene sees Bristow addressing the camera, breaking the fourth wall with an impromptu little anecdote amidst killing a seemingly innocent man. It feels like something a sociopath would do, and through this raw look at the actions of a madman, we witness pure malevolence. In the scenes that follow, Noel gives insight into how he sees the world and his own physical makeup, it’s intriguing to an outsider in the same way Ted Bundy’s final interview was to people. For most of the film Errol and Ellis are left questioning who Noel really is, and subsequently so are we. There’s also something to be said with the social commentary on independent film making and the film industry itself (as a fan and artist I could definitely relate). Bristow is a revelation here. I seldom use the phrase “blown away” to describe a performance in an independent film, but in this case it’s warranted. Bristow nails the new yorker accent and he’s got the look, certainly aided by the fact that he just so happens to resemble fellow actors Michael Imperioli (of The Sopranos) and Milo Gibson (son of Mel). The performances from Urda and Montejo are equally as good, they just aren’t quite as front and centre. Nicholas’s “Patrick Bateman” like narration (American Psycho) serves its purpose and gives off that air of self-awareness.
Most of the minor issues with Strawberry Flavored Plastic are technical related. There’s a tonally jarring sequence where after something quite heavy occurs, Noel uses a selfie stick to film himself parading around the house, running the camera every which way while the scene plays to a piece of uplifting music. I understood the contrast of said scene, but it just didn’t make for a pleasant watch with that dizzying camera work. There’s also a number of scenes like the therapy session that are presented via singular narrow framing aspect ratio and I think it loses some of the sincerity that the rest of the picture contains. Maybe Noel isn’t supposed to film the session and doesn’t want to get caught, faire enough. Though the downside with those scenes is that Bristow doesn’t get to showcase his ability in the same fashion because he’s not on-screen. I wasn’t a big fan of the departure in conventional score being interchanged for music tracks either. For most of the duration everything feels so real, the only part that felt like a stretch was Errol’s willingness to potentially compromise his family, and for what? The sake of a documentary? Albeit one that was important to him. I feel as though most people in the same situation would have set clear boundaries and guidelines first. I suppose my other issue is the lack of activity and reporting on recent crimes in the area, as well as a complete lack of reaction from people during the restaurant scene. The kicker is that there’s a moment in the film where the amount of information divulged about Noel would have likely come back to haunt him, but alas.
Colin Bemis’s, Strawberry Flavored Plastic is a fresh and new experience comparable with that of independent crime features like “Creep” and “Capture Kill Release”, only better. I like the oddball title, the poster art and the documentary style delivery. Most of the camera work is commendable, the audio track is incredibly sharp and the dialogue is highly articulated. The performances from all three male leads are very good, but it’s Aidan Bristow as the focal point of this character study who doesn’t waste a moment of screen time, delivering a performance that will go down as one of the best of 2018. There’s a couple of setbacks with some of the technical things surrounding the camera movement/placement and the music (just personal preferences). Bemis takes a few liberties with the credibility of a few of the script specifics too. The film’s re-watchability factor might not be as high due to the pacing being a touch sluggish in places, perhaps benefiting from an edit of ten to fifteen minutes. Strawberry Flavored Plastic is a slice of indie goodness that fans of the subject matter need to see. So check out the trailer below and keep an eye out of the official release, coming soon!
My rating for “Strawberry Flavored Plastic” is 7/10