Philip Lowe is in prison for killing his sister Nicole and raping her dead body. That one sentence pretty much describes the feel good factor of Todd E. Freeman’s bizarre and unnerving psychological drama “Reynard the Fox.” If any one film fits that often overused description “edgy,” this gritty number fits the bill. The linchpin of “Reynard…” — the name is taken from a character in a medieval morality play with whom Philip identifies — is a four day series of jail interviews between an unrepentant, aggressive and subtly menacing Philip and a minister more interested in researching the mind of this troubled killer than in saving his soul. Freeman intercuts these sessions with eerie posthumous documentary interviews of Nicole and Philip’s deceased mother, as well as a gradually more-revealing series of horrifying flashbacks, to paint the highly troubled household of Philip’s youth. We learn that when Philip’s missionary father was killed in Africa, his mother got remarried to a wife beater and — surprise — a child molester.
Given Philip’s murderous actions, these circumstances are neither all that unique nor even surprising. It’s the blistering, electric way Freeman presents his chilling and sordid tragedy that sets this film apart. The screen is always alive; the grainy, scratchy B&W imagery flickering, flashing and jumping throughout. Add to that, a cacophony of punctuating percussive sound effects and a handful of well-timed, bassy “demon voice” effects and you’ve got a horrific chunk of movie ickiness that’ll make you want to shower in battery acid. Unquestionably highly aware of its self-indulgences, “Reynard the Fox” is also substantially padded — and feels like it — with repeat footage, etc., to stretch out to its 70 minute run time. Surprisingly, none of that seems to matter. You may not want to watch this gripping film, which seems destined for underground cult status, but put “Reynard the Fox” in the VCR and you will anyway.