Surreal landscapes and quirky characters often epitomize the world of independent horror films. The commonality comes at no surprise considering the unifying thread between these films concerns either their refusal, or inability to be constrained by big name studios. Finding the beauty of these films often requires the perfect mix of artistic taste, non-conformist intrigue and a dash of tolerance. The Oregonian pushes these boundaries to the limit to deliver a brain-splitting trip into madness.
The Oregonian (2011)
Directed by Calvin Reeder, The Oregonian (2011) demands all three of these traits from its audience as he foregoes a cohesive narrative in favor of unsettling circumstances, over-the-top visuals and inexplicable human interactions. In doing so, Calvin Reeder also travels a loose plot similar to that of other films. While not a sin in its own right, this fact demands that savvy execution carry the load. Calvin Reeder pleasantly surprises.
An Unchained Plot
The story, or lack thereof, begins with an idyllic afternoon on the farm. The unnamed female lead, played by Lindsay Pulsipher, feeds and waters the animals with not a care in the world. Suddenly, the the film flashes to the bloody conclusion of a deadly car crash. Our lead, confused and bloody, inspects the crash site and finds the broken and bloodies of two unnamed victims lying dead on the ground.
In her disoriented and amnestic state, she begins a long strange trip to find help in remote woods of the Pacific Northwest. It should be noted that Reeder never explicitly explains where the film takes place and this presumption can only be made by stitching her surrounds with the curious title of the film.
For the duration of this review, we’ll refer to the lead character as Lindsay to avoid non-specific descriptors.
A Menagerie of Odd Individuals
On her journey through insanity, the lead meets very odd and disturbing characters along the way. It beings with a woman in red, blindly staring into the void as Lindsay begs for assistance. Suddenly she bursts in maniacal laughter, causing to Lindsay to rush off in terror. The woman in red becomes a reoccurring presence, possibly even a tour guide for the duration for the duration of the film.
Another encounter involves a man we’ll refer to as EggMan. Distraught and looking for help, Lindsay flags down an early-model van. Inside a silent man stares ahead. Lindsay asks for help and climbs in the van. Silently he pulls away, staring again into the void. After miles of travel, ignoring Lindsay’s pleas for a phone, he pulls over the side of the road.
EggMan steps out of the vehicle and proceeds to hose down the road with an unnatural volume of urine. the scene goes on, seemingly forever until the stream of yellow urine turn to blood. Inexplicably, the man falls forward into his own puddle of filth, apparently dead. Witnessing this, Lindsay tries to take the wheel of the van and flee when the man appears at the driver’s side window.
“I’m okay. Too much breakfast, maybe.” He proceeds to take her to a cheap motel where he makes an omelet with eggs and gasoline.
Lest we forget, a large individual in a plush, green frog suit repeatedly takes center stage.
Interspersed Audio/Visual Insanity
Calvin Reeder punctuates his work with periodic flashes of insanity. Ear piercing screams, strobing flashbacks, frantic foreshadows and visuals that can only be described as disturbing. These include vignettes of necrophillic sodomy, sewage vomiting and bloodletting. In creating a disturbing environment, Reeder succeeds greatly. Undoubtedly, his film intends to push the audience to the brink.
Calvin Reeder willingly departs from the land of narrative and submerges himself headlong into the realm of ambiguous metaphor. Clearly this is a factor of intention, not incompetence. At no point did Reeder offer a cohesive story. Calvin Reeder insists on showing the viewer his version of hell, and that hell is exactly what he creates on screen.
Lost in Purgatory, or So it Seems (Spoilers)
The Oregonian is so abstract, its meaning is unable to be pinned down with any assurances of accuracy. We’ll offer our humble opinion on what it all means. We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.
We think that Lindsay immediately dies in her car crash. Her journey through madness amounts to her wandering between life and the beyond. Lost, she is trying to find the light. As it turns out, the lady in red gently nudges her along the way. A strong argument could be made for the Grim Reaper making an appearance just prior to the crash. Finally, Lindsay makes her way to the “light”.
A plot-line as suggested above aligns precariously with the plot line of 1962’s Carnival of Souls where a young woman plunges off a bride in here car. Apparently the only survivor, the woman wanders on a similar journey through madness as she finds her way to the afterlife. Retreading familiar ground is not always bad. Clearly, Calvin Reeder employs a significantly unique style to his film. Additionally, he dials the insanity to ’11’. At the end of the day, Calvin Reeder builds an avant-garde film around a shared theme. His film sufficiently sets itself apart.
The Oregonian, Is It Good?
We suspect that if we sat 100 horror fans of varying stripes down to watch The Oregonian, 90 of them would dislike the film because of its lack of cohesion. All 90 of them would not be wrong. Still, the film still brings something interesting to the table. Those horror fans looking for something teetering on the edge of artistic sanity will likely find much to behold.
At times, the constant jarring of the senses feels like being clobbered in head with a rubber mallet. Screams puncture the eardrums. Some of Reeder’s imagery even made us blush as we tried to watch while watched on a crowded Southwest Airlines flight.
Malevolent Dark quite enjoyed The Oregonian. However, we stand by or claim that most will likely find it abrasive. Additionally, we are not sure if it offers much in terms of re-watchability. Considering all things, we felt that it would be misleading to score this one too high. Still, the world needs horror-laden acid trips from time to time, and The Oregonian makes for a fine psychedelic.
The Oregonian (2011) - Terrifying Psychedelia - Malevolent Dark
Director: Calvin Reeder
Date Created: 2011-01-01 12:00