Gus And The TV Special is written, directed, produced, edited, shot, composed, and stars Gus Dieker. He also served as the production and costume designer while also being the make-up artist. The filmmaker brings unbridled energy and imagination, which is appropriate considering what his movie’s about.
Gus (Dieker) wakes up and prepares for his big day. See, he and his best friend, a sentient television named TV, are in a band together and broadcast live using TV’s powers. Their in-house concert is also being streamed thanks to the clay creatures who live in the vents. The show is broken up by a pre-taped segment exploring TV and how he’s alive.
Beyond that, it looks like smooth sailing until S.A.N.T.A. agents (Ben Hickey and Colman Hickey) discover the broadcast. Now, they’re racing to stop it, as it proves a threat to the dada stream, which the Systems Manager controls. But the demonic Azrael (Jamie Watson) shows up to help Gus enter the dada and help keep imagination and originality alive.
The first noteworthy thing about Gus And The TV Special is that all the songs from the band are earworms. The first half has quite a few, and they’ll get stuck in your head in the best way. While the story kicks into high gear later on, the score is just as good as the songs themselves. There’s a consistency between the two so that the music also fits the tone.
“…Gus enter[s] the dada [to] help keep imagination and originality alive.”
Beyond that, the comedic adventure is also visually engaging. While the limited budget is noticeable, mainly in the costumes (though they are wildly imaginative), there’s a certain charm to the lo-fi digital and in-camera effects. The dada is static but said static is incorporated throughout the film, including cleverly turning it into a drink. Clearly, Dieker has put a lot of time and energy into his feature, and all that effort is visible on screen.
As an actor, Dieker is only okay as Gus. The character’s a bit bland, to be honest, until a chess match between him and the Systems Manager. But as some of the side characters, such as Rat, he really shows off his range. Watson as Azrael is spirited and brings a certain charm to off-brand cenobite.
As stated, the costumes in Gus And The TV Special are where the budget strains the most, but that doesn’t mean they are bad. Once TV and Gus are combined, their blue jumpsuit with antenna is a little goofy, but it still works. The Systems Manager, clearly referencing The Seventh Seal, is decked on in a cloak which makes his antics at least seem respectable. Rat, a character locked up and forgotten about, looks especially fantastic. His make-up is also the standout.
Dieker’s story points out how people are being controlled and manipulated to fall in line and like whatever media they’re told to. To that end, he makes the Systems Manager sound smart but actually pretty dumb. The S.A.N.T.A. agents never have the full picture, while Gus’ next-door neighbor berates him for being a loner, despite Gus leading a more fulfilling life. It’s all some interesting food for thought.
Gus And The TV Special is a charming, inventive affair. The songs and score are dynamite, while the story is layered and engaging. At just 68-minutes long, the movie is a worthy time investment.
For screening information, visit the Gus And The TV Special official website.
"…a charming, inventive affair."