Gary’s Touch (Short, 2007)

Click here for all the Fantasia news & reviews!Gary's Touch review (click to see it bigger)Reviewed by Paul McCannibal

Starring John Rykelyukhhizen, Lulu Mendez, Amanda Bui

Directed by Ken Takahashi

We all need the human touch
I need it, the human touch
We all need the human touch
We all need it, and I need it too!

– Rick Springfield

Some of us will recall the lyrics to this pan-flash 80’s remnant pop song, and you know what? It’s true. We all need the human touch. Or at least, most of us who aren’t aspiring to be the next Howard Hughes do.

Enter “Gary’s Touch”. Do we need Gary’s Touch? That’s a very difficult question to answer. If you think you need to know intimate lifestyle details of a basement dwelling, child stalking pedophile who keeps his jism stored in Petri dishes for later use, and want to know what those uses might be, then this film is for you! Having said that, the “you” I just described… how many people could there be who actually would want to see or think or know about such things in explicit detail?

As such, then, we must examine what exactly this film is “about” and whom it is “for”. It is most certainly not for everyone. This is transgression in contemporary cinema personified.

Now, let’s pause here for a second. This was made in Ottawa. Ottawa!! The capital city of Canada, a fairly picturesque but mostly conservative place aesthetically as far as cities go, little or no graffiti, no buildings allowed to be raised higher than the Houses of Parliament, all manner of decay swept under the rug as much as possible to ensure the sheen of state power remains in visual check and everything looks pristine. Considering that, “Gary’s Touch” is definitely not a film that is ever likely to be embraced by the Ottawa tourism board.

Director Ken Takahashi has made an outrageously hardcore new 25-minute short film, set plainly and recognizably in Ottawa. This is a film with well deserved notoriety on the underground circuit – consider the premiere screening of “Gary’s Touch” in Ottawa: along with the expected walk-outs, this film “touched” someone in the audience enough that they felt the need to call the police afterwards. That’s how real and disturbing this film feels.

Gary's Touch review (click to see it bigger)I don’t care how tough or open minded you think you are – unless you’re someone who gladly suffers the darkest of social and/or personal human realities, there is simply no getting around the viewing of this film gradually turning you into clammy, gelatinous blob. This is not the kind of jump/shock horror that gets your date grasping your arm, leading to heavy petting that ups your get-laid potential later that night. No, this is not that at all. In fact, I could see entire relationships ending over the wrong person being taken to this film. Take note – you could be instantaneously single if you are naïve enough to take the wrong date to “Gary’s Touch”!

So what kind of horror is it exactly? Well, it’s part body horror, I guess, the idea of showing what it it’s like being stuck in the persona and visage of a total social reject creep, with no friends, family, and little or no human contact. Or, perhaps it’s more deserving of a nihilist isolationist tag with voyeuristic leanings. This film gazes at things you’d never think you’d need to see; things you really don’t want to think about. This is the kind of sickeningly uneasy horror that gets your back sinking lower and lower into your chair, where you occasionally catch yourself muttering a low but genuinely concerned “oh no…” to yourself. If the effect of this film could be attached to a scent, it might be somewhere between a hideously sweaty gym bag and burning hair. Or maybe like huffing on a paper bag filled with oven-warmed toe jam and dick cheese while hanging out at a landfill on a hot afternoon.

But is that all that “Gary’s Touch” is? A deeply disturbing gross-out? Is that what it was intended to be? Because on the other hand, if you can step back from the horrible feelings this brings to the surface, you can see that what it in fact also is, on another level, is an extremely dark, unflinching depiction of someone living on the absolute fringe of human existence, and what daily life might actually be like in lieu of biological human urges that become dangerously compulsive when starved long enough. And somehow in this dire, nightmarish circumstance, the film actually calls for your empathy – the music in places is meant to make you feel sorry for this Gary guy, and it’s as strange a contrary effect as you’ll ever feel in a movie. But then, things happen, Gary touches something else, or someone else… and you’re soon muttering “oh no…” all over again.

Someday, someone will have the guts to curate a “Revulsia” style festival where films like “Gary’s Touch”, Neighborhood Watch, and Rick Trembles’ “Goopy Spasms” play back to back, resulting in a near suicidal audience in a theater reeking of open sores born of oozed fear and repulsion.

Gary's Touch review (click to see it bigger)Until then, we can counter the discomfort of something as disturbing as “Gary’s Touch’ with the reflexive humour it incurs (yes, there were smatterings of distressed laughter during the screening at certain scenes – if you see it don’t be surprised if it happens to you). We’re talking humour in the bleakest sense, when something is so suffocatingly depressive that your subconscious tries to stifle the badness with laughter. Instead of really examining the brutal context of “Gary’s Touch”, one might instead ponder how things might be in a parallel universe where “Gary’s Touch” is the blockbuster norm and sequel deals are being inked as we speak. What would those incredibly poor taste sequels be called? There’s Something about Gary? I know what Gary Touched Last Summer? How about Dude, Gary Touched My Kid!

Thankfully, that’s not the case, because beyond the obvious fact that it would be a totally miserable downer to live in a world where public demand lead to movies like this being made and screened all the time, ‘Gary’s Touch” would be robbed of its power and originality and ability to repulse on levels few filmmakers would even think of, er, touching.

We’ll just have to accept the raw, unsettling power of “Gary’s Touch” for what it is, and no matter how it makes you feel, you have to hand it to director Ken Takahashi for having the guts and vision to do it. I really wonder where he’ll take us next, because it’s hard to imagine a darker direction than this one.

This movie isn’t really rate-worthy in the typical sense, because it defies categorization and I don’t know how many people would “enjoy” it, let alone want to see it knowing ahead of time how morbid and uneasy it is to watch. So consider this review fair warning. But for those brave or daring souls who want to check it out, it’s definitely powerful and very, very dark and twisted. I’ll forego the usual rating associations and simply give it 5 sperm-filled turkey basters out of 5.

5 out of 5

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Steve Barton

You're such an inspiration for the ways that I will never, ever choose to be.