PALM SPRINGS SHORTFEST 2023 REVIEW! We’ve seen it before: an angry white host on a political talk show is shown hyperbolically mourning the apocalyptic future they think America is careening toward. Enter Lola Blanc’s Pruning, a bold and unsettling twist on modern politics that is bound to leave a lasting impression. Whether one is doom-scrolling down the depths of Twitter threads or listening to such firebrands on TV, it’s clear that the rising tide of anger on either side of the culture war is well beyond what was once called civil discourse. Few filmmakers, though, have proven quite as adept at mining this wellspring of material as the writer-director.
The film opens with an intense diatribe from conservative television news celebrity Sammi Gellar (Madeline Brewer) on her popular show. Think of a younger, prettier version of Tucker Carlson, and you’ll get the idea (let’s not give Fox any ideas for a replacement, though). She is adamant that true Americans must “prune” the rot taking hold of the nation. Her words unintentionally inspire a follower to commit a mass shooting. While protesting the role her words played in the shooter’s inspiration, something strange takes hold of Sammi from the inside.
“Her words unintentionally inspire a follower to commit a mass shooting.”
Pruning initially seems like a film concerned with delivering a taut political statement, but it soon becomes enters body horror territory with a hint of jingoism. Look, the more one reviews indie films of any length, the more refreshing it is to see novel ideas. I’ll count myself lucky if I never see another indie horror centered on vampires or zombies. Sign me up for ones that say something beyond the simple devotion to genre tropes.
Pruning is a gem. The director strikes the right balance between fascination and revulsion, with the grotesquerie of the political discourse unsettling the viewer much more than the body horror on display. Lola Blanc is a badass, and she just may be the horror filmmaker the country needs as we head toward another exhausting election cycle.
Pruning premieres at the 2023 Palm Springs Shortfest.
"…Blanc is a badass, and she just may be the horror filmmaker the country needs..."