Were it released theatrically this year, “Make-Out with Violence” would land on my year-end 10 best list for film. This out-of-nowhere gem is unlike anything you’ve ever seen, making it difficult to describe accurately. My best stab: What if Wes Anderson made a zombie film?
The story finds a family of three brothers — college-bound twins Patrick (Eric Lehning) and Carol (Cody DeVos), and grade-school sib Beetle (Brett Miller) — sullen over the disappearance and assumed death of Wendy (Shellie Marie Shartzer), a pretty, girl next door type. Beetle was enchanted by her; Patrick, in love with her.
Post-funeral, Beetle and Carol are walking in the fields when they make a brutal discovery of Wendy tied up in the trees, and she’s not dead. Rather, she’s undead. A still smitten Patrick sneaks her into the bathroom of a friend’s place they’re housesitting, where he keeps, cleans and feeds her.
Meanwhile, everyone goes on with their lives over the course of the summer, and those knotted relationships are what form the core of “Make-Out.” In other words, it’s a coming-of-age film that just happens to have a zombie in the bathtub. You could excise Wendy completely, and not only would you still have a feature, but it would still work like a charm.
Not quite a comedy, not quite a drama, definitely not horror, “Make-Out” is tonally perfect, even with the seemingly incongruous corpse plopped into the equation. It treats the Wendy situation with a realistic approach, so the movie is neither slapstick comedy like “My Boyfriend’s Back,” nor a repellent gross-out like “Deadgirl.”
Big-thinking and bright-looking, the Deagol Brothers’ full-length debut stands in a class of its own. First-time features aren’t supposed to this good, and that goes double for the DIY, self-financed ones. Even if you’ve suffered through every quirky hipster rom-com out there and digested the complete filmography of George Romero, you’re still in for a singular cinematic experience.
Sharp characters, a killer soundtrack and an ending that induces goose bumps playfully collide for an ambitious, impressive piece of accessible art-house work for which word of mouth surely was invented. —Rod Lott