Posted in: Review

Flytrap

From its opening moments, Flytrap creates an atmosphere of palpable unease, which doesn’t let up throughout the film’s 80-minute runtime. The movie centers on Jimmy (Jeremy Crutchley), an English astronomer who is driving to UCLA to start a new job when his car breaks down just outside Los Angeles. Since he’s also not getting a signal on his cell phone, he goes to the nearest house hoping he can use a land line, and Mary Ann (Ina-Alice Kopp), the woman who opens the door, quickly invites him in. That’s when things get weird. Jimmy slowly realizes he’s being held hostage by Mary Ann and her male allies as part of a nefarious plan, though to say much more wouldn’t do justice to the Lynchian directions the story takes.

Flytrap, which was written and directed by Stephen David Brooks, won a number of Best Feature awards at film festivals around the world in 2016, and the movie still makes an impact four years later. While the narrative hinges on a science-fiction mystery, it also delves into the dynamics between men and women — or more specifically, the way a reserved man who claims he likes to take things slow reacts to an attractive and vocally available woman. Even though he’s the person telling the story, for the most part, Jimmy isn’t the one driving it, and even the camera sometimes seems to have a mind of its own, showing the viewer things Jimmy couldn’t possibly witness, something that contributes to the aura of off-kilter foreboding.

In some ways the movie is almost too successful at cultivating that atmosphere. Jimmy continually tries to make sense of his situation in ways that are familiar and logical to him, and his unwillingness to see the trap he’s fallen into can be frustrating. The character makes some odd choices, such as attempting to teach Mary Ann how to dance (Crutchley shows off some amusingly awful moves), and his devotion to her despite his situation doesn’t feel entirely earned. Plus, while Mary Ann and her cohorts’ plan feels sinister, it doesn’t ultimately seem like it will be all that effective. Meanwhile, the ending is the most predictable part of the film, and as a result, it doesn’t have the same impact as the rest of the story. Overall, however, these quibbles don’t take away from the spell Flytrap casts.

Although it was made on a shoestring budget, the movie makes the most of its limited locations. However, the story wouldn’t work at all if it weren’t for the cast’s strong performances. Kopp is a particular stand out. Her commitment to the role holds the narrative together and enables the film to reveal bits and pieces of information, even as her strange manner helps maintain the air of ominous peculiarity.

While the movie makes use of frequent pop-culture references to everything from James Bond to Gilligan’s Island (Mary Ann’s name and Jimmy’s full name aren’t randomly chosen), the narrative has something of a timeless quality with plot points and themes that can be taken at face value or understood on a deeper level. Like David Lynch’s Eraserhead, Flytrap is a small film that slowly works its way under your skin. By the end of the movie you may not feel as paranoid as Jimmy claims to, but you will feel oddly mesmerized by the experience.

4 stars (out of 5)