Flesh City is a hard film to describe in one sentence. It’s like watching a rave directed by David Lynch while tripping on acid.
In Roger Ebert’s Little Rule Book, (which every aspiring film critic should read, by the way), he states that all good critics should be prepared to write a negative review. Of course, everybody’s taste is different, and when writing a review one must be balanced and constructive. Too often, people will list all the aspects of a film that they didn’t like, without taking into consideration the effort of the filmmakers and trying to deconstruct what the director was attempting to say with their piece. There is also a need as a critic to be as honest as possible and to offer constructive feedback. We seem to take delight in reading/watching/listening to reviews where the critic goes off on a rant, and although these rants are enjoyable, what do they offer? Film criticism needs to be informative and fair, in order to allow the viewer to arrive at their own decision on whether they wish to part with their time and their money for a film.
Of course, what does any of the above have to do with this review of Flesh City? It’s a film that evoked a strong reaction from myself, and as a result, it left me pondering on what is the duty and the responsibility of a film critic. I can admire the film’s beauty, and it’s style. It certainly does not look like any other film I have come across. It’s bold and original, but it’s excessive. There’s a great saying that we should all apply to our lives: less is more. The film starts off in an intriguing manner, with black and white establishing shots of an urban landscape. Buildings and tower blocks dominate the screen in a looming manner, with an eerie soundtrack playing over the images. This could be the start of a horror film or a gritty film noir, but Flesh City is neither of these things. Flesh City is impossible to slot into a genre, and I guess that is intentional.
Apparently Flesh City, “is a Trojan horse of a film”. It certainly feels like a Trojan horse virus; slowly invading your mind and senses, until you become hypnotized by colors, sounds, and bizarre performances. Describing the plot is fruitless. According to IMDb, the film’s synopsis is as follows: A young couple stumbles into a dark, incomprehensible world in the basement of a nihilistic night club, opening a portal to mutation and mayhem. It is hard to tell who our main character is at first, but eventually, it becomes clear. Vyren (Christian Serritiello) is a man who has no background, no real purpose or motive throughout the film. He barely speaks or interacts with anyone else aside from a woman called Loquette (Eva Ferox). The two of them are captured by a Prof. Yagov (Arthur Patching), a mad scientist, who infects them with some sort of weird virus, which slowly takes over the entire city.
Flesh City‘s narrative is broken up by music videos for various bands with names like ‘Womb Envy’ and ‘Marquis De Sex’ which are being shown on a TV show called ‘Magical Nihilism’. One point I’d like to add is that it is never made clear whether Flesh City is set in our reality, the distant future, or whether it’s all just one bad LSD trip that has gone too far. The music wasn’t to my taste; and I found these music videos to be a distraction from the main storyline, (which I was struggling to follow). Still, I admire the filmmaker’s creativity and vision. They certainly have been inspired by the works of David Lynch, Kenneth Anger, and Luis Buñuel, and they certainly appreciate the complex nature of avant-garde cinema. However, the director of Flesh City has not made their film very accessible, and I suspect that it will struggle to find an audience outside of the experimental/avant-garde sub-culture.
Upon doing research into the production of this film, I discovered it was shot on barely any budget and over the course of four years. Considering its lack of budget it certainly looks slick, and flashy (not all independent films have such high production values). The filmmaker convinced actor Shaun Lawton to do a cameo. Lawton is best known for Æon Flux (2005) and Possession (1981). It is worth adding that Possession is apparently the director’s favorite film. We have that in common, as it’s one of my favorites too. Like Possession, Flesh City is a film which evokes a strong reaction. However, Possession relied on its strong central performances to hold the film together during its more surreal and violent moments. Sadly, the central performances in Flesh City are forgettable. This could be down to inexperienced actors, but I suspect it is down to the poorly developed script and the characters, which should have been fleshed out more.
There is plenty more that I could write about, but it is best to wrap this up in a concise and polite manner. Flesh City is a film which is almost impossible to describe. Yes, I admire the filmmaker’s creativity and their obvious passion for film; but this was a film that left me wanting a long hot shower. I hope I have done my best to be as fair and as constructive as possible. I can safely say that Flesh City isn’t like any film I have ever encountered before.