It is rare to experience a film so stylistically off-kilter and contextually obtuse that it warrants a permanently furrowed brow. Ian Haig is a multi-medium exploratory artist with a sizable catalogue of work stretching over two decades, with his most common themes obsessing over the human body. That obsession is on full unsettling display in his debut feature, a mockumentary on a group of observers who are determined (in cult-like fashion) to widely distribute the human body. The Foaming Node almost defies description, forgoing most filmic conventions in order to drown us in a boiling ocean of uncomfortable eeriness.
The film traipses along the checkered history and testimonials of the few remaining observers who followed the “transmissions and evacuations” of the mysterious Foaming Node (Brian Cresswell), a comatose man who would eject white foam from his mouth. These evacuations soon became accompanied by seemingly preternatural distortions while the observers slip further into madness and sickness. The Node’s control over their lives becomes almost divinely twisted, even directly infesting and manipulating others, always consciously expanding its control. While consisting primarily of interviews, “archive footage,” and numerous turntablist montages of aberrant behavior, many ethical and moral scientific frameworks are put to the test, and some actually end up shattered.
“…interviewees bleeding from their noses and mouths, biting at their own skin and veins, or the constant foaming…”
This is a weird one. An extraordinarily weird one. Beyond its Cronenberg-esque body horror elements, unhealthy love of the color blue, and perturbing subversion of traditional storytelling tropes, this has left me sincerely baffled. That isn’t to say that there isn’t a consistent logical throughline within the narrative and that the story doesn’t progress through a dynamic arc. It’s actually admirable how Haig manages to keep the narrative progressing through all of his editorial distortions, especially considering that he is always broadcasting how he is heavily manipulating us. Like von Trier fusing with Lynch, we are bombarded by surface-level filmic exploitations riding against a torrential undercurrent of alternative thematic intents. This all is compounded by the conviction of the main cast to their offbeat and tantalizing characters, of which they all do admirable jobs.
That isn’t to say that each choice that Haig makes (as he is the primary force behind the film, as editor, director, producer, and writer) is always something that pays off. He continually utilizes several visual gimmicks to elicit easy repulsion (such as digitally copying and pasting video footage of eyes, noses, and mouths to multiple parts of an individual’s face), resulted mitigating their effect each time they are deployed. While several recurring practical effects (such as interviewees bleeding from their noses and mouths, biting at their own skin and veins, or the constant foaming footage) manage to heighten the unease and discomfort to surprising levels; there are several instances (especially one regarding teeth), that the effects are so damn hokey and poorly executed, that the considerable suspension of disbelief this film demands becomes too unreasonable.
There is no doubt that I will endlessly ponder over the themes and oblong cinematic intuitions of Haig’s steel blue fever dream, and that’s the best part. This film wants you fraught with anxiety and nausea and manages it for the bulk of its brief 65-minute runtime. After the credits roll, it continues to resonate with a paranoid silence, questions falling over one another in. Even with its recurring faults, The Foaming Node manages to be creepily unhinged, yet cerebrally intoxicating.
The Foaming Node (2018) Directed by Ian Haig. Written by Ian Haig. Starring Katrina Gow, Matthew Ferguson, Maree Barnett, David Black, Brian Cresswell.
7 out of 10