Ever want to watch a portly, half-naked man in a sheer full-body stocking eat spaghetti excreted by a fuzzy pink box attached to his basement wall?
Well, then, congratulations – you must be the target audience for writer/director Pat Tremblay’s film Atmo HorroX. Also, you should probably not wait too much longer to visit a qualified mental health professional.
Billed on its official website as an “experimental satire inside a psychedelic horror b-movie”, Atmo HorroX throws together an extensive array of absurdism, weirdness, and grotesquerie without a concession in sight for the run-of-the-mill film viewer. It channels everything from the domestic revulsion of David Lynch’s Eraserhead to the down-home freakishness of early Harmony Korine to the corn syrup ‘n latex aesthetic of low-budget 80s Italian horror, but any attempts to discern the point of all its aggressive outlandishness – something, possibly, about the pharmaceutical industry and perhaps also the surveillance state – are likely to end in, at best, frustration, at worst, a complete mental breakdown.
To describe the film in terms of narrative or structure is probably a futile endeavor, but to wit: it mostly centers on a character who appears to be an underling of the aforementioned body-stocking guy; also clad in a body stocking, this chap is smaller in stature and sports an arrangement of brightly colored and ever-so-phallic balloons taped to his crotch. His mission involves stalking around a suburban neighborhood and temporarily blinking various characters out of existence; they’re lured to their fates by burnt sausages that he produces (don’t ask). In the meantime, he’s spied on by a harried-looking civil functionary perhaps best described as a really low-rent Man In Black, and he repeatedly visits some kind of giggling, faceless enchantress in the woods who bestows on him household objects like spoons and kitchen sponges.
On top of all that, there’s also a recurring bit involving an average-looking dad who keeps getting attacked by a rubber-faced monster; each time, he manages to turns the tables and beat and/or stab the creature to death, but – in one of Tremblay’s only real nods to traditional horror film conventions – it’s always somehow able to come back for more.
“Is Atmo HorroX brilliant? Is it terrible? Is there really a method to its several different flavors of madness?”
All of this continues to transpire for upwards of an hour and forty minutes, with some connection between its multiple threads only really showing up in the film’s closing sequences. Unapologetically an endurance test for even the hardiest connoisseur of cinematic insanity, Atmo HorroX does feature more than its share of pungent imagery, and exhausting as it can be, it remains oddly watchable if only to discover what fresh ridiculousness it can cook up next. The costumes, production design, and practical special effects are a highlight, their handmade, bargain-basement feel adding immeasurably to the film’s surrealism-on-a-shoestring aesthetic.
Credit is especially due to Gilles Maillet’s sound design, which provides an effectively unsettling backdrop for Tremblay and cinematographer Richie Mayonez’s bizarro visuals; the soundscape of ominous atonal drones and buzzes, punctuated by gut-wrenching mechanical/organic vocalizations, keeps viewers aurally on-edge from beginning to end. Dialogue, when it occasionally pops up, is intentionally garbled and unintelligible, as well, making even the most commonplace scenes – a family picnic, a domestic argument – feel like glimpses into an alien civilization.
Is Atmo HorroX brilliant? Is it terrible? Is there really a method to its several different flavors of madness? Those questions might be unanswerable, and they may not even matter in any conventional sense. It’s exceedingly difficult to mount a critique of a film that, at just about every given opportunity, defies logic, taste, and understanding to the extent that this one does. It might be someone’s cup of psilocybin-laced tea, but whether it’s good, bad, or somewhere in between, one thing’s for sure: it won’t be forgotten any more easily than it’ll be understood.
(2016). Produced, written, and directed by Pat Tremblay. Starring: Laurent Lecompte, Roch Desrosiers, Claude Dubé, Donald Lévesque, Martin Savard
??? stars out of 5
Get more information on one of the weirdest films that has ever been sent to Film Threat at the official website for Atmo HorroX.