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Wednesday 2 October 2013

Welcome Wagon (2013)

Directors: Jessica Lee Wright and Sadie Shaw
Stars: Maitress Madeline, Bryan Coons and Mineko Brand
This film was an official selection at the 9th annual International Horror & Sci-Fi Film Festival in Phoenix in 2013. Here's an index to my reviews of 2013 films.
OK, I didn't get this one at all, unless its point is scarily obvious. It's a short film by The Wooden Lens, in collaboration with Everyday's a Holiday, and it markets itself appropriately as 'a dark comedy from the most twisted parts of Jessica Lee Wright's and Sadie Shaw's brains.' It may just be the definition of 'it seemed like a good idea at the time,' given that it was shot as part of a 24 hour film challenge one Friday night and Saturday morning. 48 hour films are tough enough, but 24 hours is surely enough to only throw out wild ideas for five minutes to see which ones stick, before getting down to business. This one appears to rail against the normal world by pointing out that what goes on behind the front doors of those quintessentially nice folk in small town America is wilder than you're likely to imagine. Maitresse Madeline ought to know that, given that she's a professional dominatrix, fetish model and BDSM performer, but as Mary Lou Blue from number 259, she's saccharine sweet with a cherry on top.

I don't need to have watched The Andy Griffith Show to know why Grand Mayberry sounds so decent and all-American. Here it's a down home town full of other down home locations: Sunnybrook Lane, Strudel Street and Chesapeake Lane. You just know that if you moved into this neighbourhood, you'd have neighbours pounding on your door with apple pies to make you welcome. Well, Mary Lou brings cupcakes and lemon meringues instead, but she's just as wholesome with her striking red hair and gleaming smile. She even has a dog that's as tiny as you might expect. What you won't expect is who moved into number one to spark such a welcome. It's a panda. Well, really it's some dude wearing a panda suit, but Mary Lou takes it entirely in stride and never even mentions it. The script doesn't have any concerns with the concept either, suggesting that furries moving in next door is so unremarkable that it isn't even worth commenting on. They're just neighbours.

And so it goes. We see the front as long as there's time to see the front until we find out what goes on inside Mary Lou's house. Quite why this sprang out of the imagination of Jessica Lee Wright and Sadie Shaw, who directed and co-wrote the film with Dave Malloure, I have no idea. How they happened to have a professional dominatrix and three panda suits immediately to hand, I have no idea either, but I'm sure the aftershoot party must have been memorable. What they were trying to say here, I have just as little idea: either it's that old chestnut that the people who seem the most vanilla are secretly the wildest of the bunch or it's a call to action to rid the world of the furry menace. From glancing at their other films on Vimeo, I have a feeling that The Wooden Lens are non-commercial absurdists who enjoy the process of filmmaking and like to see things on screen that they've never seen before. For my part, I'm all for it. They succeeded here on that front, but that's about all.

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