'Hellaware': Film Review
This low-budget indie satirizes the pretensions of the New York gallery scene
Taking satirical aim at the pretensions of Brooklyn hipsters and the New York City art gallery scene is like shooting fish in a barrel, but director/screenwriter Michael C. Bilandic (Happy Life) pulls it off with rough-hewn aplomb in his ultra-low-budget sophomore feature. Depicting the efforts of an aspiring photographer who thinks he’s found the perfect subject in an Insane Clown Posse-inspired rap group based in the sticks, Hellaware offers just enough modest amusement to sustain its brief running time.
Said photographer is 25-year-old Nate (a spot-on Keith Poulson) who at the story’s beginning has just been dumped by his girlfriend in favor of a ponytail-wearing artist whose latest gallery show consists of crude crayon cartoons. Commiserating over his troubles with his friends Bernadette (Sophie Takal) and Gaugin (Duane C. Wallace), he spots a video on YouTube featuring the grotesquely costumed and ghoulishly made-up “Young Torture Killaz” performing their less than subtle rock/rap song “I’ll Cut Yo Dick Off.”
Accompanied by Bernadette, Nate travels to rural Delaware to take in one of the group’s concerts, only to discover that they actually perform in the basement of their leader Rusty’s (Brent Butler) parents’ house. Rather than being put off by the low-rent affair, he instead decides that he’ll secretly document the group’s antics, which include no small amount of drugging and drinking. Although they’re wary of Nate because he’s “old,” the members are quickly wooed by his vague offers of procuring a record label deal and supplying them with such exotic drugs as “purple drank.”
The resulting photographs secure him a deal for an exhibition at a gallery in Bushwick run by the pretentious and wonderfully named Olivier LaFleur (Gilles Decamps). But when the Killaz get wind of the show they loudly object, with Rusty in particular not wanting the graphic photos to possibly be seen by his parole officer. They proceed to rudely sabotage the opening night, with surprising results that deliver the film’s very funny punchline ending.
With the exception of the no-nonsense Bernadette, whose relationship with Nate turns briefly sexual, none of the characters come across well. Skewering the affectations of the milieu with expert precision, Bilandic nonetheless provides just enough empathy to give the farcical proceedings a human dimension.
Production: Mister Z Productions
Cast: Keith Poulson, Sophia Takal, Brent Butler, Duance C. Wallace, Gilles Decamps, Kate Lyn Sheil
Director/screenwriter: Michael C. Bilandic
Producers: Rachel Michelle Fernandes, Spencer Kiernan
Executive producer: Daniel Weissbluth
Director of photography: Sean Price Williams
Editor: Jason Giampietro
Production designer: Janelle Jones
Costume designer: Peter Burke
Composer: Nathan Akin
No rating, 73 min.