Among the most deeply unsettling and truly disturbing horror films in recent memory, Calvin Lee Reeder's The Oregonian is one of the most intense and breathtaking film experiences of the decade. A Molotov cocktail infused with bits of Jodorowsky, Zulawski, Lynch, Beth B. and Richard Kern, The Oregonian is a truly shocking film that is refreshing in just how uncompromising and combative it is. It's the first horror film in quite a while that has a real DIY Punk aesthetic running through it and David Gordon Green's recent exclamation that nothing like it has been seen since 1977 is kind of right on the money.
A traditonal plot synopsis of The Oregonian is completely useless. Like Eraserhead or Black Box, The Oregonian builds its 'story' by rejecting most of the tired and predictable ways most modern films do. Many audience members will reject the film due to the fact that it trades in traditional story development for sheer visual hysteria, but for those willing to be venture into a truly nightmarish world that just hasn't been seen before, then The Oregonian will be one of the most welcome experiences in years.
The Oregonian is the first-feature length film from actor, writer, composer and director Reeder. After a number of acclaimed short films and video projects, The Oregonian immediately solidifies Reeder has one of the fascinating young voices in American cinema. From its opening frames where Reeder immediately sends his audience into a spiral of desperation, confusion and isolation with his star Lindsay Pulsipher to the insane final moments where his film, and his star, literally begin to burn in front of our eyes, Reeder has crafted an audacious and unforgettable work that will be rejected, and even hated, by many but I believe will become a major cult-film in years to come.
Shot on Super 16 by Reeder and cinematographer Ryan Adams, The Oregonian has a wonderful cinematic feel to it and it is about as far removed from the slick safeness that has infected most modern works of horror. Visually, Adams gives The Oregonian a wonderful No-Wave harshness that serves Reeder's nightmarish images incredibly well. Stylistically, the film is incredibly daring (I especially loved the harsh flash editing that recalls Paul Morrissey's early seventies New York based work) and it will turn fans who like safe cinema totally off but there ultimatly isn't anything safe about The Oregonian, which is one reason I loved it so much.
As the amnesiac title character who appears in nearly every scene of the film, Lindsay Pulsipher gives a haunting and quite devastating performance that ranks among the best work given by an actor in a horror film in quite some time. Pulsipher has quite a tough role here and she handles everything Reeder throws at her beautifully as does the rest of his cast, many of whom feel like they stepped out of a Jodorowsky film from the mid-seventies or a Twin Peaks dream sequence by Lynch.
The Oregonian has yet to be released on DVD or Blu-ray but thankfully it is now streaming at Netflix and Amazon. I came into the film cold (all I knew of it was that my friend Nicholas Mccarthy' great The Pact opened up for it at Sundance) but it left me stunned. I hope that Reeder is able to get it on disc soon, hopefully in a special edition, and I urge everyone to watch it via Netflix or Amazon in the meantime. Simply put, The Oregonian lays to waste most of the bullshit being passed off as horror today...it's an alarming and brilliant work that would have been on my best films of 2011 had I seen it sooner.