Sometime in the future; the new rage of the club scene is a drug like no other… AM. Imagine a drug that will make you lose your memory for 24 hours. This is the ultimate rush, as your brain experiences everything as if it’s happening for the first time. The blues in the sky, the taste of cake, the way it feels to be immersed in water, absolutely everything feels entirely new and sublimely exciting. These are some of the thoughts that lead beautiful and naïve Tara (Rachel Minor) to try AM for the first time.
Paul Yates’s “Onion Underwater” begins in a phone booth right after the AM has kicked in. Tara comes to with no clue who or where she is. She is surrounded by three beautiful ravers with bright funky clothes, wild hair, and multi colored eyebrows. They seem to ooze purity and a childlike excitement as they pull Tara out of the phone booth and lead her through what turns into an absolutely magical night.
One of the kids, Oobug (Kim Haden), explains that she is Tara’s best friend. Oobug is also the creator of AM. Tara feels connected to all of them, especially to Onion (Tyler Bosserman), the fun loving 20 something clubber with orange eyebrows and a boyish spark in his eyes. Their instant connection says it all. She does not know who he is, but it does not matter. Being around him is ecstatic. Despite the drugs, there is almost an ethereal purity in the feelings between them.
The night begins in a pool on a hotel rooftop. They get naked. They play games in the water. Three gorgeous bodies circle and float around Tara as she basks in the joy of swimming for the first time. They all feel beautiful. And between the cinematography, the music and the expressions on the characters faces, we feel beautiful watching them. It’s like we are experiencing water on a more spiritual level right along with them. Onion dives over Tara. Their hands touch under water. We can feel the emotions between them, somehow childlike and simplistic yet deeply erotic all at once.
Next the four are in a club. Again, the music, lighting, and editing put us right there with them. Tara and Onion dance almost as if they are one body. Reality seems to shimmer.
But amidst all the light, something dark begins to creeps into their world. A beautiful dancer sits on a chair, arms stretched out, beckoning Oobug to approach her. She tells Oobug she is ready to take the new drug Oobug has created… GOD. Oobug asks the dancer if she’s sure, reminding her that “God will kill you.” But the dancer is prepared for this. Oobug opens a glass case, revealing what looks like a red glass ball. She places it in the dancer’s palm, instructing her to “will it into her system.” The dancer closes her eyes. The ball liquefies and dissolves, leaving a distributing mark on her arm.
Perhaps it’s the drugs, or perhaps it’s just the collective mentality in this futuristic world, but these kids are looking for more from drugs than just your average adrenaline rush. The need to connect with a deeper energy seems to permeate through everyone. We learn that GOD is the newest and most controversial drug on the scene. It gives the user the power to actually commune with God. The downside is that, yes, this drug will kill you. But the spiritual rush is so intense that these kids, like the dancer, are taking GOD anyway.
Next we are at the beach. The friends light a bonfire and talk under the stars. Tara and Onion kiss, and although she doesn’t understand the sensations she is feeling, she feels like he is a part of her, and she desires him all at once. They make love on the beach. Her love for this stranger is overwhelming. Everything is perfect.
But halfway through the night, the AM begins to wear off. As Tara dreams, we see flashes of images that start out as fun and whimsical. But soon the images get dark, grotesque, puzzling, and downright terrifying. We realize things are not as sweet and beautiful as they seem. Something is terribly wrong…
This short will grab you from the moment it begins. This is not one of those films where the filmmaker is trying to be hip by showing cool club kids doing scary drugs. This is a film that genuinely captures the feelings these drugs and this entire mentality create. You will literally feel the magic, beatification and purity that Tara is feeling. And when things turn gruesome, your heart will hurt.
But while showing the beauty, Yates is also commenting on the dark side that accompanies the ecstatic combination of fun, music, and drug induced spirituality that most club kids crave. Although they seem unaware of it themselves, we can see how lost these kids are. The scenes unfold in a way that mimics what the minds thinks when on ecstasy or a similar drug. Life has no fixed past or future. Everything is a string of beautiful new moments and exist entirely out of touch with their history or consequences. This world is devoid of all parents, neighbors, authority figures, or any grownups whatsoever. Except for the club scene, the only characters you ever see are the four friends. The streets are empty; the shots of Los Angeles are completely secluded.
It is as if this subculture has drawn the characters so far in that all outside reality has slipped away, bringing them to a mindset where taking drug like GOD would make sense. There is no attachment to the future consequences of GOD, even though those consequences are death. There is only the rush of the moment.
But we can only escape from reality for so long…