Wednesday, January 27, 2010

El Viaje de Sebastian (2009)

Title: El Viaje de Sebastian (Sebastian’s Trip) (2009)

Director: Jorge Palacios


DIY cinema is all over the place. That’s Do It Yourself Cinema for those who aren’t familiar with the term. DIY Cinema is people making a movie for the hell of it. Just because they want to. Because they love it, because they have a passion for it. They don’t wait around for a project to get green lit, they don’t wait around for no signing of contracts, DIY cinema directors write the script, get their friends to be on them and then they film the thing! And release it! And hope to hell that someone out there cares enough to come see it. It’s kind of a thing that happens when you just want to make movies, and not wait and sit around for somebody to approve anything. That’s the kind of cinema we’ll be talking about today. It’s the kind of cinema that the guys over at Iron Fiend Productions concern themselves with.

Jorge Palacios is a Puerto Rican filmmaker who’s been around making short films for a while now, he is one of the founders Iron Fiend Productions, a company that prides itself in putting forth gory blood drenched short films to shock and tantalize. And with Jorge’s new movie “El Viaje de Sebastian” I’m absolutely certain that this was exactly what he was going after. Shock Value. Hey, the movie ends with a big “Fuck You!” and not in a metaphorical sense either. The words “Fuck You!” actually blink on and off on the screen just before the final credits role; just in case you forgot what kind of short film you’ve been watching.

How do we know Jorge Palacio’s wants to shock? Well, his short film “El Viaje de Sebastian” is chuck full of the right ingredients to do this. The story starts out with a young man (Sebastian) aimlessly wondering about, going to Blockbuster Video checking out some videos to no doubt see while he is high. He walks around town until he arrives at his sister’s house where they quickly decide to smoke some weed. They end up kissing. See what I mean by shocking? Pretty soon, they run out of drugs, so its time to get more drugs! Sebastian, as portrayed by Puerto Rican actor Sebastian Loubriel plays the character of the guy who has to go and get more weed to smoke. Unfortunately for him, the dealer (Palacios himself playing Gus the drug dealer) sells him some kind of experimental acid called 345 Trioxin (yeah just like Return of the Living Dead films) that makes Sebastian go on one murderous bad trip. Hence the short films title, “Sebastian’s Trip”.

From here on in, the film goes into incomprehensible territory. Jorge Palacios wanted to play around with color effects, editing, slow motion, basically, whatever trick he could pull out of his hat, he tried on this short to give us the illusion of being on an acid trip. Wanting to take his audience on a drug trip with him is fine by me; the thing is that coherence is sacrificed on the altar of drugs. I mean, using hallucinatory drugs will get anyone’s mind incomprehensible, but a film has to try and follow some kind of linear story, unless you are David Lynch, in which case, fine, go incomprehensible. But Jorge wasn’t going for a Lynchian vibe, my guess is he was going for something closer to what we saw in films like Roger Corman’s The Trip or those trippier scenes in Easy Rider. But hell, even those movies had some sort of story we could follow. Palacio’s short suffers a bit because of this, but hey, it’s a drug trip what can you expect? Right?

Drug films are interesting, actors can flex their acting muscles by playing characters that are completely whacked out of their skull and usually they get into some pretty crazy situations. Take Benicio del Toro and Johnny Depp on Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas for example, an excellent drug trip movie which becomes even better thanks to Terry Gilliam’s visionary direction. Those tripped out scenes in the hotel room? Priceless. Requiem for a Dream is another great one. Palacio’s El Viaje de Sebastian puts its main character through all sorts of horrible situations. Getting high and kissing his sister is one. Killing every girl he happens upon while he is walking is another. Talking to spirits and demons is another one. To Sebastian’s credit, Ill say he is always a champion for willingly saying “yes” to acting in some of the scenes on this movie! Like I said, its main purpose is to shock. And it does shock. I’m sure that was Jorge’s intention right from the start. Hey, there’s even some nudity on this one. Pretty hardcore full frontal stuff on this one. Actually, I think the movie went a bit over the top with its nudity, by actually placing a couple of seconds of porn spliced in a scene. In this, Jorge Palacio’s short filmed suddenly reminded me of a grindhouse film from the 70s called Thriller: A Cruel Picture. A film in which actors sex scenes where for real. But what Jorge did on this one is he spliced real porn into his short film. Was the porn scene too much on “El Viaje de Sebastian”? Was it necessary? You be the judge. I guess it really depends on what you can take.

On a technical level, the film does have a few faults, and really, this is something to be expected from this type of guerilla filmmaking. But there’s a couple of little things I couldn’t pass up, like there is a scene in which Sebastian is stabbing this girl, and you could just tell that somebody was just throwing a bucket of blood on her. I mean, the blood was coming from the wrong direction, and really, nobody bleeds that profusely! On another drug infused sequence, a naked girl is being bathed in blood, again, you can see somebody is just pouring that blood on her from above. Little things like that take you out of the movie immediately. There are some instances where the editing is a little off, where you can see the actor waiting for someone to scream “action!” These are little seconds that could have been snipped away at the time of editing. I appear on this film, yet I have no idea how my character fits in the story because it appears out of nowhere. We are supposed to infer that these guys are cops. For some reason, one of them is holding a severed penis in his hand. Why? Nobody knows because it isn’t explained. I always thought that would make sense at the end of the day, but there it is. A severed penis on a dudes hand for no reason. Again, were supposed to infer that it’s all part of Sebastian’s drug infused murderous rampage. Jorge Palacios (the short films director) suddenly stops the movie saying that everything is going wrong! He wonders how he can fix it! That scene seemed like genuine frustration to me.

There is a scene on which Sebastian starts having these visions and he sees a man dressed in a Halloween suit talking to him, making him do evil things, like killing. The thing is that I’m pretty sure its not supposed to be a man in a Halloween suit. I’m guessing that it’s supposed to be an evil spirit or demon talking to Sebastian from beyond! But come on! That’s a guy in a Halloween mask! His got those Halloween gloves on, the ones that look like skeleton hands. It was just not a very convincing depiction of a demon. Though Ive never seen one, Im pretty sure they wouldn’t go around dressed in a Halloween suit. I would put a bit more attention on make up effects next time.

I cannot really say anything about the films themes or story because this is not a short film that concerns itself with that type of thing. This is a short film about a guy going to buy some drugs, and going on a messed up drug trip. Jorge is trying to give its audience a visceral experience, a shocking experience. He wants them to either leave angry and upset, or laughing his or her ass off. And really, when you watch this type of short film, you either love it or you hate it. It’s trying to be offensive, and it’s trying hard. So be ready for that. But I applaud Palacio’s for going out there and doing his thing. It takes guts to make a movie, and when you are into gore/shock cinema, it isn’t easy to please an audience! This type of film is the kind that not everybody will watch, its aimed at a smaller audience, one that enjoys the more twisted and bizarre things that life has to offer. Not for the squeamish!


Sarah from Scare Sarah said...

I love these. When you watch them they make you feel like you're seeing them in real like because of the cheap film they use. Classics.

Sarah from Scare Sarah said...

Just reminded me of a film me and my friend made when we were 11! We got her cat to attack us and we "cleverly" covered ourselves in her mum's red lipstick.

Don't tell anyone.

The Film Connoisseur said...

Ha, funny Sarah, I love these types of films as well. This particular one was made by a friend of mine, here in Puerto Rico.

I use to make films as a kid as well! I made on called "Night of the Willies" where my brother locks himself up in the house, only to have the killer (me)right inside the house with him! He killed me with a nintendo gun!

Gotta love DIY!

Mr. Fiendish said...

dude this review is pretty spot on, even with the way the direction of the blood is going. I tell people that whatever faults they find, remember, it's an acid trip and the laws of reality, common sense and, well, movie continuity don't apply.

Also when you pay for nudity, you might find it gratuitous, but for $200 I wanted to milk it for all I could.

by the way that demon seemed kinda fat, don't you think? lol

The Film Connoisseur said...

Glad you liked the review for your short film Fiendish, I was kind of worried you'd find it to harsh, but I tried being as objective as possible, and sincere, you know how it is.

I do agree with you, that demon is so fat! Just kidding Beto, I got nothing against fat demons, specially when these fat demons are my friends!

Lets keep indy filmmaking alive! "Bloodlust" coming along okay? Hope so!

Mr. Fiendish said...

I thought it was pretty positive, all things considered. I don't mind negative reviews as long as they're constructive, instead of the typical 'this guy sucks and shouldn't make movies' bullshit you find on blogs.

Carl (ILHM) said...

Dude Fiendish way to make your own movie, that is AWESOME! I commend you for the effort, and I am glad Franc was able to get a review up. I always take budget and experience into account when it comes to rating indie films, and Franc you definitely did the same in order to give this a fair review. From your comments and the pics Id give it a go for sure!

The Film Connoisseur said...

Thanks Carl, Fiendish and I and a couple of other friends of ours are a group of filmmaking friends who constantly amaze each other with the movies we make. Keeping real indy cinema alive!


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