With the glut of Zombie and Vampire yarns respectively munching and sucking their way into the mainstream, a curiously sovereign effort, The Commune, made its debut in the UK recently, courtesy of the Bram Stoker Film Festival in Whitby.

Now available on DVD, for a modest total of around £11 inc. delivery to the UK, I laid down my cash and pressed play…

The opening frames display a quote from Swiss psychologist Carl Jung; "Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate." Considering the generous peppering of subliminal shots and sounds throughout the movie, this excerpt is as pertinent as it is intellectual. After a harrowing opening scene, the story begins with the teenage protagonist, Jen Cross (Chauntal Lewis), having to grudgingly endure a 3 week summer break with her estranged father, Dr Polieos (Stuart G. Bennett) at his New Age retreat - the commune. Her mother, Cassandra (Director Elizabeth Fies), shows a little superficial sympathy. However, she ultimately allows the dreaded vacation to transpire - seemingly due to her own ulterior motives of wanting her daughter to snoop a little on the doc's finances ahead of their upcoming divorce.

From the moment Jen reluctantly arrives at the commune, she is fed viscous servings of 'love and peace', which starts to build a subtly unnerving atmosphere.

It's not long before fate brings together Jen and non commune member Puck (David Lago) much to the dismay of her father, especially when he catches them committing the ultimate evil... eating fast food!

The film's pace is helped along with Marc Shap's breathtaking cinematography. Rich colours are beautifully exploited in every frame, creating a visual treat for the viewer.

Another vital stratum to the film is the use of sound. Danny B Harvey's score is refreshingly original but the attention paid to the sly hallucinogenic sound effects that slowly drip into the movie is genius. The meld of noise and visuals are executed so cleverly, that the film is utterly intoxicating without the need for gratuitous drug scenes. But this movie is not simply a dreamy assault on the senses. The complexity of the film makes for some captivating set pieces.

For example, the scene in which Jen surrenders her apparent virginity to Puck is an amazingly convincing depiction of teenage sex that effortlessly evolves the characters and story. THIS is 'sex education' kids!!

There is a patent scattering of sex throughout the film, but this is accomplished in a delectably intelligent and honest fashion. Every use of flesh contributes to the characters profundity and steers clear of one dimensional titillation to boost sales.

The stance of not affording anyone total innocence is bold and realistic, exemplified by their vulnerabilities slowly surfacing as the story unravels.

The violence in the movie is extremely vicious, but it's the timing of these brutal sequences that is crucial to their shocking impact within the film.

The disturbing build up, complete with red herrings, crafts the perfect tense landscape in which to deliver the traumatic finale. The visceral climax may well stick the knife in to the viewers psyche, but it's the plot that twists it! This is a sumptuous movie experience that can easily be enjoyed more then once.

The Commune deluxe special edition DVD is signed by writer / director Elizabeth Fies when ordered from the website and is laden with bonus material: Deleted scenes, a 'making of' feature, a blooper reel, the screenplay and even a 'family tree' (view the movie you will understand why!). But it is the two commentary tracks that, for me, were the highlight of the 'extras'. The first is an amusing romp with cast and crew, recalling some behind the scenes antidotes. The second, an intimate yet fun analysis of the storyline with Ms Fies and Producer/Editor Todd Miro, that verifies the complex structure of the movie was no fluke.

The thinking behind every aspect of the movie is revealed including a sobering fact on how the movies 'theme tune' came to be. Allusions to "The Wicker Man" (I refuse to use the term 'original' as there has only EVER been one Wicker Man movie ever made…), "Revulsion" and "Rosemary's Baby" are discussed. On this point, rest assured that while this movie does make references to these classics, it does so with imaginative class as oppose to vulgar imitation.

Independent film making can be a double edged sword. There is a definite distinction between toying with taboos within a movie and making a film with the sole intention of trying to shock the audience.

Emancipation from the dollar shaped leashes of studio executives, necessitates an element of originality in order to create a memorable movie.

Miss Fies has indubitably achieved this with her fine piece of work

Anyone concerned with the growing banality of Hollywood "horror", should consider how essential it is to support projects such as The Commune.

In fact I feel another screening and a plate of tofu is in order right now!

Review by Marc Lissenburg

Directed by Elisabeth Fies
Region 1
Not Rated
Extras :
see main review