Director: David Buchanan
Writer: Paul Papadeas
Starring: Russell Steinberg, James Markham Hall Jr, Dan Crane, Jeff Hillard, Félixe De Becker, and Stephanie Brait
Laguna Ave is being marketed as being similar to Tetsuo. The only similarity is that people meld with metal. Tetsuo is a frantic, energetic and intense from start to finish. It’s a raw experience. Laguna Ave is not.
Russell (Russell Steinberg) has just been sacked from his job. His lazy attitude bothers his girlfriend Rita (Stephanie Brait), who ends up leaving to travel north for work. A new downstairs neighbour moves in, Gary (James Markham Hall Jr), and makes a lot of noise each night. Russell becomes a little obsessed with figuring out who the neighbour is and ends up getting drawn into a world he doesn’t really understand.
This is being marketed as a horror comedy. It’s neither. There’s not one moment of terror or any scares to be found and while there are obvious attempts at comedy, they just don’t land. It’s just a really dull film where not a lot happens and the eighty minute run time stretches out into eternity.
It starts out promisingly, once you get through the opening scene where someone literally squats on a desk at their place of employment and does his business, the next scene feels like something ripped out of an independent 1990s film. It’s very reminiscent of Kevin Smith’s films with rock music playing in the background to a bunch of young adults sitting around talking. There’s a lot of hope there, but it doesn’t last long.
The performances are pretty terrible. They just can’t act. None of the lines are delivered with any believability or feel natural. Everything is stilted, especially an incredibly awkward moment where Russell and a friend get high and proceed to have a montage of them being high, including a singing moment. There is a charm to the bad acting, but it only goes so far.
Not enough happens in the film. For the first half you feel like you are just going through Russell’s motions as he tries looking for another job, hangs out with his neighbours, gets annoyed at the new one and sits around not doing much. It’s really boring and then when it gets going there just isn’t enough there. It takes way too long to really get into gear and then it’s pretty much over.
The director shot the film in black and white, because it was the only way he could vision the film. It looks good, but other than a nod towards Tetsuo (which the director admits to not having seen) it doesn’t really feel needed. It hides some of the bad acting and effects, by giving a lower budget-vibe, that’s about it.
This is a film that is apparently about lost masculinity and the insecure feeling that Russell has, since his partner earns more money than him. It’s not explored in any interesting way and is a really antiquated view on the world. There might be an interesting story there somewhere, but it’s not Laguna Ave.
Laguna Ave isn’t worth watching. It’s a bad film that just drags on and on. It tries to be funny but isn’t. There’s no scares or horror to be found. All the charm it has doesn’t make up for the boring story it is telling.