Red Cockroaches (DVD)

Starring Adam Plotch, Talia Rubel, Diane Spodarek, Jeff Pucillo

Directed by Miguel Coyula

Released by Heretic Films

I must say, I’m feeling better and better about indie filmmaking as of late. Either I’m getting really lucky in what I’m choosing to review, or it’s just getting better across the map.

Miguel Coyula’s debut feature, Red Cockroaches, is the kind of movie that you wouldn’t expect from anyone without a massive budget and some serious skills behind the camera, at least in its overall style. The fact that the entire thing was apparently shot for $2,000 in the span of a year, and it was Coyula’s first time working on anything longer than a short, only adds to its overall impressiveness. Cockroaches is proof positive that there are some people born to be visionary filmmakers.

My only issue stems from the fact that it’s not really a horror movie, though to be honest I’ll be damned if I can fit it into any actual genre definition. Let me tell you what it’s about first of all.

It’s apparently present day, but the world in the film is an alternate reality in which acid rain falls almost constantly and causes transmogrification in some of the unlucky citizens of New York. There are also flying cars, but they’re only shown in quick glimpses and serve to do nothing more than make it look like our world, only a bit . . . different.

We meet Adam (Plotch) right before he dumps his socialite girlfriend because they’re not right for one another. He takes out an ad looking for a roommate, and at his door appears a mysterious girl with a French accent (Rubel) who’s interested. After some not-so-subtle come-ons to Adam, she turns bitch and decides it’s not the right place and leaves without another word. The next thing Adam knows, his mother (Spodarek) is calling in a panic saying his sister, who died ten years earlier in a car accident with their father, is still alive.

Guess who it is? The mysterious girl again, now named Lily, claiming to be the long-lost sister who’s been in a coma in Paris for the last nine years. Apparently her memory has come back. Adam’s unable to hold back his lust for the girl, despite their familial ties, and pretty soon things get very depraved.

Throughout the film we’re told, through TV and radio ads along with the testimonial of Adam’s best friend, Nick (Pucillo), about a company called DNA 21 whose tagline is “A Chance to be Born Again”. Could Lily actually be a clone of Adam’s sister, which might explain her sudden appearance and the fact that she’s always carrying a lost tooth around? God only knows, and director Coyula sure as hell doesn’t want to give the viewer any answers, which actually serves the movie more than I had thought it could. His strong point is visuals: color, angles, and texture, and virtually no two shots within all of Red Cockroaches are the same. According to both the featurette and the commentary on the disc, this was the cause for many frustrating days on set as the same scene was played over and over again so Coyula could get the different angles he needed to put it together later. But my God does it work! The fact that pretty much nothing is explained is almost forgivable when you have a movie that looks this cool.

Though the narrative is lacking somewhat, Red Cockroaches should be seen for the visuals alone to see just how good things can look with no budget if you have the right man behind the camera. Thankfully Heretic recognized this and gave it a nicely stacked DVD release as a sign of the respect it deserves.

The commentary track features Coyula, Plotch, and Pucillo discussing what went into making the film and how it all came together. It’s very fast-paced for the most part and full of lots of info, and I almost got the feeling at times Coyula had a hand in editing it as well because it doesn’t have the natural flow that a commentary track usually does throughout; there are moments when you can tell things are missing and/or clipped. This doesn’t detract, however, but serves only to keep it going faster.

Also featured is a 6½-minute “making of” featurette, which mainly consists of an interview with the director interspliced with some behind the scenes footage. It’s well done and not boring at all and gives some good insight into how such a visual director works from the very first day of shooting, knowing what he wants the absolute final product to look like. There’s also one of his early short films, which is another example of what an odd bird he is and just how young he was when he began honing his talents. It sure looks better than most indie films shot with a crappy camcorder in a backyard. Someone give this man a budget!

Rounding out the disc is the trailer for Cockroaches, three deleted scenes, outtakes (which are actually funny!), and a look at the storyboards. Like I said, it’s a nicely stacked release for a truly unique film that certainly deserves a look.

I grant you, it’s not straight-up horror in the strictest sense, but there’s enough strange stuff going on that I’m sure you’ll be uneasy for most of it. If nothing else, give it a rental just to see how visually different it is from all the other crap that’s out there; that aspect is undeniably impressive. Cheers to Heretic for putting together a good edition with snazzy, quick loading menus and an obvious attention to detail. Recommended!

3 ½ out of 5

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