Tuesday, 20 January 2015


We‘re nearing the end of January and I haven't still haven't reviewed a Bill Oberst Jr. film yet this year! What the hell?
It looks like it is time to address that, and what better place to start than with Trevor Juenger's Art House/horror movie, Coyote? This is a film that has won awards at some festivals, yet been banned at others.
Need I say anymore? Read on...

COYOTE (2014)

Dir: Trevor Juenger
Starring: Bill Oberst Jr, Victoria Mullen, Shawn I. Chevalier, Bill Finkbiner, Joe Hammerstone, Heather Schlitt, Tasha Zebrowski

SPEEDY SYNOPSIS: I'll try not to spoil too much here, but read on at your own risk.

Bill Stone (Oberst) is an aspiring writer who has recently moved into a new home. He is haunted by recurring nightmares in which he is brutally slain in his bed, so he now forces himself to stay awake at all costs. 
Taking a job as a removal man with his macho racist boss Joe (Finkbiner), Stone's paranoia blossoms, causing him to exercise constantly and familiarise himself with weapons and outdoor living in preparation for attack.
When he discovers a CV and certificates for qualifications he doesn't possess during a house move, Stone takes them and uses them to con his way into a job at a local TV station. Here he meets Jesse (Mullen) and a relationship starts to blossom... but how long can it last as Bill's mental state continues to unravel?

THE BEST BITS (mild spoiler warning): Well, holy shit, what the hell did I just watch?
Juenger's film is easily one of the most bizarre I've ever seen, let alone reviewed for this blog. It will prompt a strong reaction from the viewer, like any good piece of art will do.
It is a brave film, filled with striking imagery and is a stunning example of exactly what Art House Horror can offer.
A lot of Art House pictures are more experimental works, with a focus more on the aesthetics, symbolism and visceral reaction of what it shows, often at the expense of conventionally structured storytelling. This could be said of Coyote, but while many Art House films forego plot for visuals, Coyote manages to maintain a (mostly) cohesive storyline, instead using its more artistic sensibilities to drag you into the fractured psyche of our deeply disturbed lead.
There are legitimately shocking onscreen moments (which almost certainly led to the film's ban in some areas) yet at times there are also moments of very dark, very twisted beauty. 
Juenger's film is truly fascinating, often challenging and always compelling — it cleverly uses non-linear storytelling and has a seam of the blackest humour running through its core.
As a reviewer I watch a lot of films and some struggle to keep my attention throughout — Coyote kept my eyes riveted to the screen.
This is to say nothing for the astonishing and often jaw-dropping moments of violence that occur throughout the film. One sequence in particular unfolds like a ballet of brutality and is truly a spectacle to behold. It could well be one of my favourite scenes of recent years, it was so masterfully executed.
The film utilises a number of fantastic tricks throughout, from the uncomfortable score by Michael Schiralli to the jarring colour transitions to disturb the viewer, neatly encapsulating Bill’s descent into insanity with both aural and visual cues. Even the title is intelligent, taking the name of a dangerous, predatory, scavenging creature that exists on the outskirts of humanity, a perfectly apt description of the state of mind into which Bill devolves. 
As a relative newcomer (Juenger has just five directing credits to his name), Juenger deserves full praise for his bold decisions with the film. WIth hints of so much more behind the story (including a metamorphosis theme that takes in a story about the vengeful wrath of aliens) and a whole host of unanswered questions that invite deeper contemplation of the movie, Juenger is definitely one to watch.
I honestly believe there will not be single review of Coyote that overlooks Bill Oberst Jr’s performance. I’ve long sung his praises here at Hickey’s House of Horrors but this is arguably the finest performance I've seen from him yet. The film is almost a one-man show, and Oberst is quite frankly, incredible. This is a committed performance and he owns the screen. He shows nuances aplenty as a deeply flawed and broken man. At times terrifying (in some scenes Oberst channels that same level of deranged menace he displayed so memorably as Papa Corn in Circus of the Dead), at others genuinely warm and funny (that ‘alternate’ job interview had me laughing out loud), sometimes sweet (Bill’s first scene with Jesse feels almost as if it could have come from a gentle romcom) but always deeply and very sadly tragic, this is genuine brilliance.
This is to say nothing for his bravery in some scenes — very few people would be prepared to be filmed sat in a fishing chair in just their underwear, wearing a dead coyote on their head as they urinate into a bottle and then drink it, before promptly frolicking among a group of school children in a fountain and reciting the famous ‘To be or not to be’ soliloquy from Hamlet. Thankfully, Bill Oberst Jr is! Mr Oberst, you may well be my hero for this!

THE WORST BITS (mild spoiler warning): By far the biggest obstacle to many people enjoying this film will be the experimental nature of the film. Art House cinema is challenging and thought provoking. By it’s very nature it is not for mass consumption and the masses will not ‘get’ Coyote.
It can be a tough sell, it requires a lot more concentration and inspection than the umpteenth Friday the 13th ripoff featuring nudity, bloodshed, jump-scares and a nice neatly resolved ending. Quite simply, the surrealism of Coyote is very much a matter of taste and like any bold flavour, will not be to everybody’s palette. In short, if a film in which the lens of a videocamera transforms into a vagina which Bill Oberst Jr then proceeds to manually stimulate in close-up sounds a little beyond your comfort zone, you might well be best off sticking to more mainstream titles.
The ending was a bit of a head-scratcher for me, but as a lot of the events we are shown are inherently compromised, coming from the point of view of a man who has experienced a complete psychotic mental breakdown, there really is no way of truly knowing which, if any, of the scenes we are shown are 'real' or hallucinatory. Therein lies what will either prove the most fun or most frustrating part of the viewing experience for what I imagine will be a very devisive film.
As wonderfully shot as it is, I also feel that the lower budget of the film sometimes hurt it. The gritty look does help the film as a depiction of the desperately grimy state of mind that Bill descends into, but I felt that slightly more polish could have made some of those already pretty striking visuals pop that little bit more.
Finally a couple of the supporting players didn’t quite hit the spot for me. It might be a bit much to ask that everybody in the movie match Oberst’s heady heights in the lead role, but as Mullen and Finkbiner proved with their fantastic work in their roles, there are plenty of very talented actors out there in indie horror. Unfortunately, a couple of their co-stars didn’t quite do themselves justice. Luckily the core of the cast were very, very good, so this rarely became an issue.

VERDICT: Well, this is a tough one. Do I recommend a film that I KNOW a section of my readership will adore but that others will probably hate?
I think so, but I do need to warn those of you that have not yet experienced Art House horror, this is a unique and very different experience to the average popcorn horror flick. Think the likes of David Lynch cranked up another gear and you’re getting close to the often disturbing, sometimes confusing but always compelling viewing experience that is Trevor Juenger’s Coyote. You may well loathe it, you may adore it, but you WILL remember it. 
I mentioned at the beginning of this review that a good piece of art will provoke a strong reaction in the audience — with that in mind, Coyote is a brave and resounding success.
For those of you ready to take the plunge, the film was released to buy last month, so feel free to check it out. If you do, please do let me know your thoughts on the movie, I’d love to hear what my readers think of this one!
If you like what you’ve heard so far, why not visit the film’s official Facebook page and show them some love with a Like. Visionaries and risk-takers deserve props!

If you haven’t already, do please check out and like the Hickey’s House of Horrors Facebook page, which you can find here. It gives you a nice quick link to any new posts on this blog, plus regular news updates from around the web. I check the Internet so you don’t have to! Alternatively, follow me on twitter: The House@HickeysHorrors

Until next time, I hope you enjoyed your stay.

No comments:

Post a Comment