What is it about serial killers that fascinate the public at large? Is it the need to understand what makes someone like that tick? Is it a morbid fascination with death? Whatever the reason, there is no shortage of media about serial killers. Books, shows, and movies have well documented the exploits of real-life and fictional criminals. The intriguingly titled Strawberry Flavored Plastic is the latest film to find humanity in the inhumane acts of cruelty such figures perpetrate.
Noel (Aidan Bristow) agrees to let filmmakers Errol (Nicholas Urda) and Ellis (Andres Montejo) follow him throughout his daily routines. The two friends chose Noel as he claims to be a serial killer and they want to understand what violent impulses lead to such destructive acts. Noel, for his part, is a well-spoken, charming man with a lot of opinions about society today and work ethic. Errol and Ellis interview Noel, mostly about the alleged murders he has committed. One night at a gas station, Noel proves his violent tendencies by randomly attacking another customer there. Errol and Ellis freak out but vow to see the project through to completion.
Though, a proverbial wrench is thrown into the production when Noel gains full custody of his young daughter Gabriella (Raelynn Zofia Stueber). Noel does not want cameras in Gabriella’s face all the time, so a deal is struck. His daughter is off-limits save for special events that both she and Noel will be attending. However, things take a turn for the serious when this rule is broken. Are Errol and his family safe from this good-looking sociopath? What about Ellis?
“… two friends chose Noel as he claims to be a serial killer and they want to understand what violent impulses lead to such destructive acts.”
Strawberry Flavored Plastic, which marks the feature-length debut of writer-director Colin Bemis, is a brilliant, insightful, witty masterpiece. The dynamics between Errol, Ellis, and Noel is fraught with tension, yet there is a certain chumminess in their daily talks (save for the occasions when Noel goes MIA for long stretches of time). The reveal of Noel’s violent urges is also well handled and about as realistic as one can imagine given the setup.
The dialogue also flows quite naturally and is very entertaining. When Noel talks about the reasons he loves his job, the flexible hours are a big perk for him. He then laments how the US of A view works as a means for survival, not for life. Errol counters with a question, “what about people who enjoy their careers?” Noel concedes this point but believes it to be quite rare.
Bemis also deftly navigates between the different cameras and audio recordings that make up the film within the film. Errol and Ellis intercut their interviews with footage of Noel’s work or just them driving around town. They also turn the camera on themselves, as they start the editing process or react to new information about Noel. All of these elements run together seamlessly, and subtle editing effects really ramp up the tension in the latter half of the movie.
“…he swings between a casual demeanor to scarily violent…”
Aidan Bristow delivers a powerhouse performance as Noel. The way he swings between a casual demeanor to scarily violent is mesmerizing. As Errol, Nicholas Urda makes for a great straight man, so to speak. See, Ellis is more rash than his co-director, and Urda brings a calm demeanor that grounds the movie. For his part, Andres Montejo makes Ellis’s impulsive nature rather endearing.
Frustratingly, Strawberry Flavored Plastic does stumble over itself. At around 50-minutes in, Errol delivers a monologue about the enigma known as Noel. For all the great dialogue and compelling character moments that occurred before this, this voice over is overly sentimental and cheesy.
It takes the movie about 20-minutes to recover from this utterly useless and awkward moment fully. A similar idea is discussed during a fight between Errol and his wife, which makes this moment, earlier though it is, unnecessary. Once the film gets back on track though, its denouement is startling.
Strawberry Flavored Plastic is a film of stunning power and intelligence. Everyone in the cast delivers the screenplay’s smart dialogue with gusto and intensity. While the movie gets bizarrely and inexplicable cheesy, which hurts the momentum for a while, it springs back to life with a harrowing ending that demands to be seen.
Strawberry Flavored Plastic (2019) Directed by Colin Bemis. Written by Colin Bemis. Starring Aidan Bristow, Nicholas Urda, Andres Montejo, Raelynn Zofia Stueber, Bianca Soto.
9 out of 10 Gummi Bears