May 17, 2018 Soft Matter (Movie Review)
Art is art and science is science, or so the world has been led to believe. Some artists think they are social scientists and some scientists find their work to be art. And then there is Soft Matter, coming to VOD Tuesday, May 22, 2018 through Wild Eye Releasing. Writer and director Jim Hickcox’s debut feature, art and science get all mixed up.
In this deranged Body Horror/Comedy mash-up, two street artists break into an abandoned hospital looking to stage an art show for the ages. What they find instead are two mad scientists working on a project for the ages; or, rather, trying to eliminate all ages and discover immortality for human beings.
How are they doing this? Grist (Hal Schneider: Revolution series, Jackrabbit 2015) and the obsessed Kriegspiel (Mary Anzalone: True Grit 2010, Genesis 2016) are experimenting on humans with sea creature DNA. Things get pretty sloppy in their workspace. Fluids, gak and all sorts of thick, colorful juices fly around at random. In this oceanic DNA, Kriegspiel, far more interested in immortality than goofy sidekick Grist, has discovered the key to long life. However, this does not sit well with the Sea-God (voiced by Mykal Monroe: My Crazy Love series, Roof Access series) and played by Sam Stinson (The Leftovers series, Animalium 2017). Yes, the Sea-god.
Then there is Haircut (Devyn Placide: Tales of the Lockwood Sisters series, The Long Road Home series) and his partner-in-crime Kish (Ruby Lee Dove II: Falling for Angels series, Suds series) who decide on this old hospital for the show. Haircut is a known street artist, painting his signature ghosts on the area’s crumbling buildings. Of course, everything goes haywire once the duo reach the hospital.
Overall, Soft Matter is one of those films an audience is either going to love or hate. Hickcox’s aesthetic choice of cheesy for cheesiness’ sake will rub some people the wrong way. That said, the film, packed with goofy humor, oddball performances and gross-out effects, does not aim to scare as much as it seeks to encourage revelry in the ridiculousness of it all.
Shot well, it is basically a two-location film with some fun use of light and shadow, making it very colorful throughout. Additionally, there is definitely a very ‘80s vibe going on here with its kooky synth score by Kevin Phillip Williams. Again, the vibe is going to either grab the viewer or it is going to turn them off. Soft Matter knows what it is and it makes this known really quick. Blowing by at 72 minutes, it raises some interesting thoughts, putting art and science in a petri dish. Both duos of Haircut and Kish and Kriegspiel and Grist are out to create something lasting. The former by putting on their art show and the latter by becoming immortal.
Does Soft Matter really investigate these questions about the human need for a lasting sense of relevance? It is not particularly deep, but it is a plus that the film has this little thematic thing going on. The title and byline of “Everyone is a science project” does hint at an interest in this theme, though, connecting the goals of each duo as innately human.
With all that in mind, what is the verdict? Soft Matter is a fun time loaded with self-awareness. It is something that will encourage keeping an eye on Jim Hickcox. A film that wears its absurdity on its sleeve, with its eye kind of constantly winking at the camera, Soft Matter is in on the joke. For that, CrypticRock gives it 3 out of 5 stars.