SLAMDANCE 2020 FILM FESTIVAL REVIEW! A palpable, almost profound sense of discomfort hangs over nearly every frame of Tapeworm, a Canadian film that seeks out catharsis in the most cringe-worthy of situations.
It’s probably a good idea that co-directors and writers Fabian Velasco and Milos Mitrovic throw down the gauntlet essentially right away. Within the film’s first few minutes, viewers are treated to a lingering close-up of a bloody pile of human feces and, in turn, a perfect litmus test for whether this is a film experience they’ll actually want to endure.
The good news is, for those who choose to commit to a movie that’s characterized so thoroughly by unpleasantness, Tapeworm has more to offer than that early scatological shock might suggest. And, thankfully, the types of s**t that the remainder of the film wallows in are mostly of the emotional and metaphorical variety.
“Explores the lives of several Winnipeg apartment dwellers, each of them notable mostly for how joyless and morose their day-to-day existence has become.”
Described by its makers as an “anti-comedy,” the film explores the lives of several Winnipeg apartment dwellers, each of them notable mostly for how joyless and morose their day-to-day existence has become. As none of their names are clearly spoken within the film, and the credits offer no help, either, a few sobriquets will thus have to suffice. For starters, there’s Middle-aged Hypochondriac (Adam Brooks), who fears that he’s dying of an intestinal condition (he’s the source of the film’s title as well as the previously mentioned opening-scene excrement). His emotionally distant wife (Julie Simpson) refuses to believe him, or, maybe, has just reached a point at which she can no longer tolerate his constant complaining.
Amateur Comedienne (Alex Ateah), meanwhile, delivers her half-baked, self-deprecating bits in a stilted, nervous monotone to indifferent open-mic audiences, then returns home to an empty apartment to write more “jokes” and stave off crying fits. There’s also Gamer Man-Child (played by co-director Mitrovic), who spends his apparently jobless weekdays disinterestedly competing in video game soccer matches; he lives with his mother (Jennifer Mauws), a home care nurse, and though she shows a grudging patience toward his lifestyle, she pines for even the smallest bit of his affection, acknowledgment, or – at the very least – help with the household chores.
"…a Canadian film that seeks out catharsis in the most cringe-worthy of situations."