What do you get when combining a legendary long boarder’s skateboard, laser-firing bananas, and a bunch of post-modern hip-hop gangsters? You get the story for Zapper!. Writer-director Nick Gatsby’s first feature-length movie tows the fine line of existing in the liminal space between needing psychedelic drugs to enjoy it and feeling like you are already half a carton of magic mushrooms on a wild trip.
Celestial beings created a game for their amusement which pits chosen pawns, the titular zappers, against each other to win the ultimate prize on behalf of their ethereal benefactors. In this round of the game, Floyd Lennon’s King Board is at stake. A legendary longboarder “who never existed,” Lennon’s King Board is said to be the key to making the world a better place.
The pawns selected are a bunch of zany and psychotic gangsters. We start following Daffy (Nick Gatsby), who is tasked with recovering the King Board by his good woman Lucy (Skye Armenta). Eventually, the narrative focuses on Alice (also Skye Armenta), who collects more of the game pieces. Finally, we are introduced to Owsley (Christopher James Taylor), who has quite a few combatants to fight through.
Gatsby fills Zapper! with surrealist touches. The most inspired decision was to have bananas serve as laser guns, even if it’s bad for the fruit. I kept expecting these yellow oblongs to bruise; fortunately, they did not. The soup can as a grenade was quite interesting. I enjoyed that moment very much.
“…pits chosen pawns, the titular zappers, against each other to win the ultimate prize…”
The celestial beings provide a needed interlude from the gameplay. Their scenes are framed in sedate black and white. The rest of the film is exceedingly trippy. If flashing lights impact you negatively, you’re not going to like this as there are lots of flashing whiz-bang lights. There are small bursts of animation throughout, which are fun to catch.
The visual effects remind one of the cinema experiments that took place during the height of the American Avant-Garde movement of the 1960s. Were Sally Dixon still functioning as an archivist, she would want to preserve this WTF experience. It is entirely in her wheelhouse.
However, the direction and technical design may prove somewhat obtrusive and grating for some. You will see moments where Gatbsy incorporates the film crew into the action. As it seems intentional, I found the move to be interesting if the purpose is deconstruction and jarringly remind us this is a film. Your mileage with Zapper! will entirely depend on how much post-modern lunacy you can stomach.
For my part, I found it to be a fairly enjoyable romp through inner space and a psychedelic good time. This film is mostly funny, has an endearing cast, and drags the viewer head-first through an acid-tinted windshield of wonder. Any film brave enough to have a major badass employ a pug as their cute, cuddly BFG has earned my interest. Perhaps it will capture yours as well.
Zapper! is far too experimental for your standard theater. If you find it online, assuming you are not prone to epilepsy, seek it out. This may be just the wild hunt through acid-drenched technicolor weirdness you need. I know I had a good time.
"…drags the viewer head-first through an acid-tinted windshield of wonder."