An angry sea-god, crazy scientists, and a couple of graffiti artists. What could go wrong with that combo, eh? That, gentle readers, is exactly the question that tonight’s low-budget film Soft Matter tries to answer. Distributed by Wild Eye Releasing and produced by Demon Janx, the film is set to release sometime in 2018.
Soft Matter is a weird movie. I won’t lie—I am so stunned by what I just watched that I’m not even certain how this review is going to go. I’m pretty sure my reaction was 50% riotous laughter and 40% amused confusion mixed with 10% pure WTF.
Because of that, I’m going to do something I haven’t done in previous film reviews. I’m going to explain the scores I’ve given it because most people who watch this film will think I’m crazy for rating it as highly as I did.
But hear me out on this.
I gave the story an 8/10 simply because the concept was unique and oh-so-entertaining.
The basic premise is a couple of scientists are using an abandoned nursing home to run experiments on the remaining patients. Why? Immortality, my friend. Really, who hasn’t dreamed of living forever? I certainly have…I just never pictured the mechanics of it being so slimy.
Meanwhile, assuming that the building is haunted and empty, a couple of graffiti artists decide they’re going to hold a ghost-based art show in the same building. They’ve even invited some genuinely clueless art show hipsters
In the midst of all this, a glowing mop bucket (yes, a mop bucket) spawns an angry sea-god who wants to stop the researchers from gaining eternal life.
Now that’s just the plot. There’s also plenty of other insanity, such as Mr. Sacks, a duct-tape-and-slime-filled-garbage-bag man who likes to break out of his room to dance to electronica and flashing disco lights. There are entire scenes of nothing but this slime-man partying so hard that the doctors get angry because, and I quote, “he ruined his freshest kicks.”
Seriously, I think I missed an entire five minutes of the film after that because I could not stop laughing.
Oh and did I mention there’s an entire animated song about a turtle ghost? Yeah…
In my rating, I gave the acting a 6/10 and the characters a 6/10.
Starting with the acting, it was okay. Definitely not great, but okay. I gave it a 6 because I think the actors really gave their all in this goofy parade of weirdness. Of course, the acting was a little stiff and the lines weren’t always delivered naturally or believably as they should have been. I could argue that the dialogue itself was simply bad in general (which it was) but that doesn’t excuse the actors’ delivery.
In regards to characters, I gave it a 6 for a few reasons. The biggest reason is there was very little character development. Second, I think this was the first time I actually wanted a villain to fail.
The sea-god was kind of a killjoy—and unfortunately, I don’t mean Killjoy the demonic clown of Full Moon Entertainment fame. According to the plot, she gave immortality to lobsters, squid, and octopi but the thought of humans living forever riled her up enough to possess a mop bucket. Seriously, why a mop bucket? We’re talking about a deity here. Was this really the best means she could come up with to persuade the wayward humans to abandon their work?
But, then again, that’s exactly why this is such a fun film.
Oh, and the reasoning behind why she didn’t want humans to live forever? Just because she didn’t like the idea. No real reason. Not because it would throw the balance of nature out-of-order or anything. It was just “because I said so.” What kind of mom answer is that?
Moving on to Kish—the female graffiti artist and really the hero of the story—she was just strange. I spent a good part of the film trying to figure out why she had a mustache tattooed on her lip. Like a genuine curly tipped handlebar mustache. I mean…just…why? And she apparently carries around a hatchet in her bag because, you know, who doesn’t?
The two art hipsters, Randolf and Miss Teath, were again just so strange. True, they were hilarious in their obliviousness to what was happening (they thought the whole “a sea god is going to kills us” thing was an art performance as they walked around with their cheese and wine) but still just so weird. The only characters who even approached some semblance of normalcy were the two crazy doctors and Haircut, the other graffiti artist—and that’s saying something.
You might be wondering why the characters deserved as high as a 6. Well, it was their pure oddity that made them enjoyable to watch. The sheer absurdity of the action and dialogue is what made Soft Matter worthwhile.
The soundtrack in Soft Matter was different and I gave it an 8 because I liked the interjection of original silly songs. I already mentioned the animated song about a turtle ghost. There’s a few little tidbits like that sprinkled throughout the film. In fact, after the fade-to-black at the end, suddenly Randolph is sitting at a piano playing and singing a song about being dead. And you know what? It was funny! I liked it!
Aside from when the music was the intentional focus, such as the turtle ghost animation or the solo dance parties held by Mr. Sacks, the rest of the music was pretty unnoticeable. Although I think that this was simply because it was drowned out by the insanity of the action. I can say for sure that I never heard it overwhelm the dialogue at least.
I gave Soft Matter‘s cinematography an 8/10. In terms of mechanics alone, I’ve got to give some serious credit to whoever did the makeup on the sea-god. The costume looked pretty decent and the framing and camera movement throughout the film was good.
The main reason I gave this an 8, though, was because of the old school effects. I’ve never seen so much glow-in-the-dark paint and makeup in a movie—at least not in the last decade. And the neon-colored special effects were great. Not only did they look hand-drawn but they harkened back to the whole graffiti art idea from earlier in the film. I thought it was a nice tie in.
Aside from this, I have a sneaking suspicion that there’s more meaning hidden in all of this that I just cannot process right now due to the really high dose of craziness, which also makes me push up the rating.
Before writing this review, I took a look at what others were saying about Soft Matter. Now, please believe me when I say that I am by no means a film critic. I’m a dark fantasy/horror/science-fiction writer so I’m not about all the nuances of film. However, I do love ridiculous B-grade and below-B-grade movies (as well as A-grade theatre releases, mind). So, I was curious about what real critics were saying.
As usual, I sort of feel like they may have missed the mark on their assessments because they’re looking at this the same way a literary fiction snob looks at genre fiction—which is usually not favorably and with a hypercritical eye that favors artistic and philosophical expression over enjoyment and entertainment. Sorry, but that just takes all the fun out of it.
See, I don’t think this film meant to take itself too seriously. I feel like Soft Matter meant to be silly, surreal, and unbelievably ridiculous just because it could. It had so many characteristics of 1980s horror styles that it almost felt like an homage to that sub-genre while at the same time just being silly for the sake of the laughs.
And that is what made me like Soft Matter. Yes, it’s campy. Yes, it’s weird. No, the acting isn’t top shelf. No, it’s not scary in the least. But I haven’t laughed (or stared at the screen completely slack-jawed in awe, for that matter) so much during a movie for a long time. I honestly appreciated that about this film.