Not quite a film review, but I did see a new movie recently that, although I wouldn’t describe as the greatest I’ve seen by some distance, is worthy of comment due to its unusual nature. Surprisingly, knowing my usual tastes, it’s not Japanese, disturbing and obscure either, it’s American. Alright, it’s still disturbing and obscure, but at least it’s not Japanese for a change.

This is the film in question…

220px-Escape_From_Tomorrow_poster

The story itself follows a family of four on the last day of their vacation at a theme park, and in particular the father of the family who, after being sacked over the phone at the start of the morning, steadily loses his grip on reality and starts to be plagued by unhealthy predilections and sinister hallucinations. It’s implied that there is already a level of dysfunction between the parents and their young son and daughter, and these tensions are magnified as Jim White, the father, wrestles with his sanity. Things take an extremely surreal turn during the latter stages of the film, leading up to a quite baffling conclusion.

If that was all there was to the movie, it wouldn’t be remarkable. The storyline is patchy and aimless at times, and the acting is variable. It’s still quite enjoyable, dealing interestingly with several disturbing issues without being offensive, but what makes Escape From Tomorrow noteworthy is how it was made.

As the poster implies, the theme park where the film is set is no less than Disney’s magical kingdom. Over the course of several months the cast and crew went into the park to shoot the majority of the scenes for the movie. Without Disney’s knowledge, and amongst the completely oblivious holidaymakers. All the footage was filmed in black and white on high-end digital SLRs, cameras much like any other tourists at the park may have, with the actors blending in with the crowds, playing their roles while the camera crews moved round to get the shots they needed.

I can’t help but admire the logistical challenge of performing such a project which was written and directed by debutante Randy Moore, and although the film only received a slightly above average rating from reviewers, they all praised the audacity of even attempting such a feat, let alone succeeding in it. There were concerns that somebody at the gates may become suspicious that the actors were arriving to the park every day wearing identical clothes, which lead to scenes being shot in both Disneyland and Disneyworld, and all the post production of the film was done in South Korea, in an attempt to keep its creation a secret from the Disney corporation.

Even as the movie debuted at the Sundance Festival, the film-makers feared a flock of magical Disney defence lawyers appearing from the sky and snatching the film away in a cloud of court summons and litigation. Thankfully that never happened, with the corporate giant, usually notorious for its draconian preservation of its copyright and intellectual property, deciding that the best approach to take was to ignore its existence, hoping that would minimise any publicity a legal battle would attract, despite the film’s largely negative portrayal of the Disney flagships. I’m glad they did.

Escape From Tomorrow corrupts the wholesome idea of a Disney theme park and turns it into a nightmarish environment full of sleaze and sinister, shadowy figures. How much of this alternative reality is genuine and how much of it is part of  Jim’s fevered imagination is what keeps the film stimulating from start to finish, and it’s also worth a second watch just to admire the techniques used in creating this unusual and original piece of ‘covert cinema’.

If you can hunt down a copy, I heartily recommend it.

Escaping from tomorrow...

Escaping from tomorrow…

During my research into this post (wikipedia AND IMDB, I was thorough!) I stumbled across one particular quote from a film critic that had me chuckling self-consciously, as it probably nails on the head why I enjoyed the movie so much…

“Even Disney-hating hipsters are going to be disappointed; the film is a pure festival play that is more or less unreleasable unless theater owners start selling weed along with popcorn.”

Kyle Smith, New York Post.

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Back soon-ish, but with what I don’t know… I may have to see if I can unblock that Shpongle pipeline…

Until next time… ses x