“Drawing Flies,” like Bryan Johnson’s Vulgar, is one of the few View Askew films not directed by Kevin Smith. Written and directed by Matthew Gissing and former Film Threat magazine writer Malcolm Ingram, “Drawing Flies” is a surreal dark comedy about where you go when you’ve got nowhere to go.
The story follows a crew of slackers in Canada who live from welfare check to welfare check, blasting their minds on pot and booze whenever the checks come in. (It is always refreshing to see that our good neighbors to the north have the same public assistance problems that we do here in the states.) After their stash runs low and they are threatened with eviction, Donner (Jason Lee) has a vision of the sasquatch calling him to the northern forests.
Donner convinces his housemates to follow him into the woods by leading them along with a story of his father’s nonexistent cabin. Since no one has a day job or anything to tie them down, they follow him for a multi-week camping trip and eventually stumble into enough troubles for themselves, including a broken arm for Az (Jason Mewes) and the depletion of their food.
This experience becomes a turning point for the group of friends, causing them to go their separate ways after the experience (especially Donner, who’s own separate way is surreal and funny at the same time). Curiously, their separate ways still allow them to wallow in Canadian slacker-ville.
“Drawing Flies,” if anything else, falls into the “drinking game” category. Take a drink whenever you see a throwback to a Kevin Smith film. Even beyond the obvious principle cast members, you’ll see some familiar faces like Joey Lauren Adams, Ethan Suplee, and Scott Mosier (in an even more embarrassing character than Willam “Snowball” Black).
One of the more interesting parts of the film is watching Jason Mewes play a character off type from Jay Phat Budz (his contribution to Jay and Silent Bob). Of course, at times he channels Jay, but his primary character is much softer and innocent. He’s still a stoner and a slacker, and he doesn’t have the rancid attraction of Jay Phat Budz.
There is a Kevin Smith cameo as a lone wolf Silent Bob who shares a brief moment with Az in a scene similar to the Danny Glover Lethal Weapon throwback cameo in “Maverick.” Like the other View Askew films, “Drawing Flies” is replete with other pop culture references, including the familiar Scooby Doo discussion we’ve seen everywhere from the stand-up stage to Richard Linklater’s “Slacker.”
Co-director Ingram covering the production of Mallrats in Minnesota for Film Threat magazine. Keep in mind, this was after Kevin Smith’s meteoric rise from Clerks, before his crash after Mallrats but still before his subsequent indie-film demigod status with Chasing Amy and Dogma.
Ingram made fast friends with not just Smith, but the cast and crew of Mallrats. Being any good film buff, he had a script with him and passed it around and got a lot of the folks interested in this film. This is the reason the film is a veritable Mallrats reunion. In fact, the only “Drawing Flies” principle cast member who was not involved in Mallrats was Martin Brooks, who mixed with the rest of the View Askew gang about as well as Jeremy London in Mallrats.
Carmen Lee (best remembered as the girl who made out with Joey Lauren Adams in Chasing Amy), who was married to Jason Lee at the time of this production, plays Cassidy, the angry girl with an attitude. Renee Humphreys (best known as the 15 year old sexpot Trish the Dish in Mallrats.) is particularly good in the film, playing Meg, the romantic lead opposite Martin Brooks.
Jason Lee is clearly the star, however, and his screen presence is so strong throughout that it overpowers most of his supporting cast. And this is impressive considering this was his first role after Mallrats (where he was “discovered” by Kevin Smith after his professional skateboarding gig). In fact, Lee delivers an acting performance that is deeper than anything seen in a Kevin Smith film (where he generally isn’t given a chance to stretch out of his abrasive Banky/Brodie personalities). Although Kevin Smith does credit this film – and more importantly Lee’s performance in it – as the reason he knew Lee would have the emotional chops to take on his character in Chasing Amy.
If you’re a View Askew fan, check your local video store for a copy of “Drawing Flies.” (If you aren’t a fan, you probably should pass.) You probably won’t find it at every Blockbuster, but look at the campus video stores and places where you’ll find the more alternative and cult flare. And get it on DVD if at all possible. One of the best scenes in the film is in the deleted scenes section where the gang calls their pusher for their monthly fix. In fact, the full “director’s cut” makes a better film. Like all the DVDs from the View Askew folks, this one is packed full of interesting tidbits and makes a rental well worth it.