Laguna Ave Movie Review
Written by Joel Harley
Released by House Angus Productions
Directed by David Buchanan
Written by Paul Papadeas
2021, 80 minutes, Not Yet Rated
FrightFest English premiere on 27th August 2021
Russell Steinberg as Russell
Stephanie Brait as Rita
Dan Crane as Pierre
James Markham Hall Jr.as Gary
David Buchanan’s Laguna Ave, the sort of low-budget filmmaking which leaves film writers like me thinking “well, what the fuck am I supposed to say about that?” as the end credits roll. Laguna Ave, which is more of a mood than a narrative experience. Laguna Ave, which opens with a guy taking a shit on a desk. Laguna Ave, which is a… thing that I watched.
Former musician, occasional TV editor and full-time slacker Russell (Russell Steinberg) lives a disaffected life; racking up debts, getting high on drugs, and shitting on the occasional desk. Partner Rita (Stephanie Brait) is never around, he owes his old boss a lot of money, and his weird downstairs neighbour Gary (James Markham Hall Jr.) keeps him up by making strange noises all night. Life begins to get truly strange when Gary introduces himself, pulling Russell into a bizarre conspiracy involving a prosthetic hand and his own girlfriend. It resembles They Live through the filter of an even grubbier Clerks.
The debut collaboration of Buchanan and writer/producer Paul Papadeas, nobody could accuse Laguna Ave of lacking in ambition. It’s a dark, humorous odyssey through Hollywood’s seedy underbelly, seemingly inspired by the many great Davids who have come before – Lynch, Fincher and Cronenberg. It should appeal to the sort of independent film fans who enjoy dark, humourous odysseys through seedy underbellies. That sort of independent film fan may not necessarily be me, but I did appreciate the punk attitude (not for nothing is Frank Zappa namechecked among the film’s PR notes). Give me interesting oddities like Laguna Ave over no-budget slasher films any day.
Like many a low-budget indie film, the acting is a mixed lot. Steinberg does great work as Russell, while others are stilted, weird and bad. Still, Buchanan and Papadeas make the wooden line deliveries and awkward artificiality work for them, turning it into the whole point. Visually it’s ugly too but, once again, that works with the film’s world and its themes. It takes the weaknesses of independent cinema and turns them into its features.
Laguna Ave is at once lowbrow and highbrow; experimental cinema which also features a great big superhero hand and a guy taking a shit on a desk. It’s dirty and somehow polished; clever and dumb. It’s both boldly ambitious and cheerily content to just sit around, scratching its own balls. I both liked it a lot and didn't really care for it at all. It is very much a thing that I watched.
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