Review: Heartsick Redneck on a Fiery Rampage in Wonderfully Weird ‘Bellflower’

Evan Glodell proves he’s a filmmaker to watch with this wonderfully weird first feature

“Propane is for pussies,” says Aiden (Tyler Dawson) to best friend Woodrow (Evan Glodell) when their shotgun blast at a propane tank fails to trigger an explosion.

These two are just passing time the way they do when they’re not working on their dream projects: a muscle car named “Mother Medusa” and a homemade flamethrower.

Bellflower” is the name of the rundown side street where they live. It is also the name of Glodell’s gritty and unexpected new movie that teaches us hell hath no fury like a dude scorned.

Woodrow and Aiden are building a flamethrower because, well, it will be “awesome,” a word which comprises an alarmingly high percentage of actor-writer-director Glodell’s dialogue. After your average meet-cute, where contestants compete in a cricket-eating contest, Woodrow falls for Millie (an unaffected Jessie Wiseman), a girl from the neighborhood. Their first date takes them to a Texas roadhouse halfway across the country, and on the way they form a fast romantic bond.

When things with Millie go south, Woodrow suffers a serious accident. In his delirium, he conjures apocalyptic fantasies involving Millie, his flamethrower, and Mother Medusa. Fiery explosions, bloody murder and a fragile male ego are all on display in Glodell’s long-nurtured opus, a script he wrote 10 years ago.

Bumpy going in the first act, Glodell’s work with a cast of first-timers results in lots of forced spontaneity and artificial chemistry. Early scenes are devoted to the young couple gradually getting acquainted, lurching from moment to moment with precious little conflict to drive the action. But once the plot kicks in, Glodell’s work with the camera becomes exceptional, capturing Woodrow’s delirium with increasingly expressionistic visuals.

Though not in the same league, “Bellflower” has the same authentic meandering tempo as Gus Van Sant’s “Elephant.” Moments and character details that at first seem pointless soon gel into an insightful look at post-adolescent male ego.

The characters of “Bellflower” seem driven to satisfy an unquenchable thirst for alcohol, sex, and cheap thrills. Nobody seems to care much for anyone but themselves, including Woodrow, whose despondence stems less from his breakup than his inability to measure up to his icon, the “Mad Max” character Lord Humongous, who is feared by men and desired by women.

The filmmaker shoots digital with saturated colors and high contrast, employing stylized cinematography and a fractured narrative logic as Woodrow’s mental state declines. With his debut, Glodell proves an adept visual stylist with adequate writing and acting chops.

A stark confessional by a director who claims he once found himself in a similarly dark place, “Bellflower” is rough around the edges but honest at its core.