Abe (Jason Harris) and George (Andrew Jacobsen) are driving along in their car; one argues how nothing happens in their town while the other laments that things do happen, and there are tons of interesting characters to focus on, just they can’t experience it in a film-like manner which would allow them to know everyone’s story. And that’s when we, the audience, begin our journey, following a number of strange characters over the course of one-day, beginning and ending with Thor (Jerry Thompson), the Norse God of Thunder.
On Earth for a final battle with the serpent that would consume the world otherwise, Thor wanders the town in search of his enemy. Mostly he just wants to catch a bus, but every bus stop comes complete with a different band of people for Thor to deal with, and he just doesn’t have the heart for it. Especially since he knows he is about to make the ultimate sacrifice to save the world, as his triumph over the serpent will also result in his own death, and no one will know about it, as they have all long since forgotten about him. Unfortunately for those in his vicinity, his emotions are lashing out as random lightning strikes, which sets off other narrative chain reactions.
But Thor is just one constant in the day’s tale. Other characters that come in and out of the story include White Trash Chuck (Mike Thompson), whose sister is the first victim of Thor’s grief; Lester (Robert Shupe), who has been impaled by a yield sign; Ultra Stan (Joe Berry), the pizza guy who just wants people to be decent and cool; Big Zed (G. Scott Thompson) and Lil’ Fred (Bob Shaughnessy), local malcontents obsessed with bullying for food; Bernard Barnard (Barrett Applegate) and Sancho (Joel Schoenbach), the news reporter and cameraman, respectively, following the odd events in town; Passenger Seat Pete (Chris McInroy), whose laid-back manner has not just upset his girlfriend Trish (Dana Bomar), but also made him a far too accepting victim of a carjacking and impromptu kidnapping by One Way Walter (Carlos Emjay); and Detective Mergatroy (Jason Neistadt) and Officer Berry (Trae Cullivan), who are also trying to figure out what is going on. Oh, and there’s the guy handcuffed in the back of the cop car that… oh, just watch the movie for that one. It’s worth it.
Mike and Jerry Thompson’s feature film Thor at the Bus Stop, an expansion upon their short of the same name, is an odd journey of a film. With memorably quirk-addled characters and sometimes entirely nonsensical situations, the film somehow manages to deliver on laughs and sentiment. It’s a stylized, fun and enjoyable flick.
For the most part, the humor is very dry and straightforward. It’s the silliness of the scenarios at play, or the brilliant way in which the film utilizes sound cues and editing, that puts the comedic bits over the top. While I can’t say I was laughing at loud, I did have that awkward smile on my face that usually accompanies watching and enjoying something really out-there and unique.
Whether or not there is a singular narrative line through the entire film is open for lively conversation, as it’s definitely a bunch of vignettes pieced together, but they do flow well from segment to segment and seem to share a simple narrative theme expressed in the film: there are two ways to act, cool or not cool. And pretty much each character falls in on one side or another, to varying degrees of coolness. Of course, what “cool” means is open to interpretation, but it seems to me to be a case of being decent to one another more so than one’s fashion sense.
In the technical sense, the film gets top marks. The footage looks spectacular, the sound cues and score usage is spot-on and the editing is mostly tight, moving the film along its increasingly inter-looping path. Sure, some scenes may feel like the performances are given a bit of extra space to breathe, but because it all works in the rhythm of the film, it’s hard to get too down on it. This film is an acquired taste, and luckily, if you make it five minutes in, chances are you’ll know whether that flavor is for you.
In the end, Thor at the Bus Stop is one of those films that reminds me how much I love truly independent filmmaking. It’s silly when it needs to be silly, almost stream-of-consciousness in its narrative wanderings (though you can’t get the look of this level of spontaneous random without some serious connecting of the dots behind-the-scenes) and overall a memorable film to experience. If you’re looking for something a little outside the norm and refreshingly original, this is a flick to check out.
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