One of The Road Warrior's
marauders falls prey to a feral child wielding a deadly boomerang. Wez, henchman of the unruly gang and master of the victim, is enraged. Humungus, who commands the horde, pacifies him with skewed sentiment. "Be still my dog of war,” he entreats. “I understand your pain. We've all lost someone we love. But we do it my way … " The post-apocalyptic wasteland imposes its own rules and so does Bellflower
. It's high octane, make no mistake, but there’s more than juvenile angst fanning the flamethrowers. Filtered through childhood nostalgia, a mumblecore love story, and 21st century suburban malaise, Bellflower
answers Humungus' call to arms with an autogeddon doused in sex and fire.
Best friends Woodrow (Evan Glodell) and Aiden (Tyler Dawson) spend their days dreaming about the apocalypse, and devising an arsenal of blazing weapons to combat their enemies. When they're not installing the latest mods on their muscle car from hell – or reinventing themselves as a gang, "Mother Medusa" – they're swilling beer at the local dive bar. That's where Woodrow meets Milly (Jessie Wiseman). An explosive bombshell, as toxic as she is tantalizing, she leaves the quiet man-child drunk on love and liquor after their first date. Soon enough, the casualty of love loses his mind in the aftermath of an accident, fashioning a busted body to complement his broken heart.
It seems fitting, then, that writer-director Evan Glodell
would use a Frankenstein film gadget to stitch together the shattered pieces of his story. It took him over a month to build what is now known as the Coatwolf Model II: a "custom optical system," used with SI-2K cameras. "I guess it's sort of like camera hacking, right?" the director said during our recent interview. "It was a hobby I got into almost ten years ago now … From there I just realized I was hooked on it, and wanted to keep doing it. I think for this film it had grown to a point where we had two cameras we were using, and then a third one I had built specifically just for a couple shots." The result is a beautifully blurred, saturated, and gritty image which occasionally dapples the lens with grime. The ramshackle system created dynamic results, but at the risk of unpredictable performance. "The camera did break all the time,” recalled the director. “I've repaired them enough and now they're fairly solid, but the majority of the time shooting the movie they were constantly breaking. We'd get so frustrated like, 'Why are we doing this?' but we just kept trucking forward with it."
Beneath the smoldering carnage, friendships and romance are the orthodox engine for this souped-up vehicle. "The two things to me that were the most important are the story of the relationship between the guy and the girl, and then the relationship between the two friends," Glodell explained. Woodrow's relationship with Milly ignites the fuse, but it's the combustible daydream world he creates with Aiden – based on the first-time director's childhood best friend – that keeps the fire burning. There's a palpable, hypermasculine synergy amongst the film's male characters, derived in part from George Miller's Road Warrior
– an iconic obsession from Glodell's youth, and an influence scorched into the celluloid.
Committed to accurately sketching the human drama evoked by the story, the rookie director decided to put himself in front of the camera. “I don't know that I was experienced enough as a director to get the performance I wanted for Woodrow from anyone else,” he recollected, “So I ended up putting myself in, since it was such a personal story. There were things I could get across faster.” Burdened with this additional responsibility, he often felt unduly self-critical – and pondered whether he was betraying his own creation. “It was terrifying for me and so stressful to have to do that on top of everything else. I really did think I was ruining the movie the entire time we were shooting it,” he disclosed.
Collaboration was intrinsic to production, with Glodell and his crew shacking up in an abandoned building for three months during the shoot. "From my point of view, that was only a little piece of it," he revealed. "The production actually went on for three years. It was a place I had worked at before, and they had a huge empty wing of the building that wasn't being used - so they let us stay there. They sort of looked the other way while we did it. It was kind of a cool time, because we were shooting all day … it was an exciting time."
Though the tight-knit atmosphere made Bellflower "everybody's project," Glodell cites director of photography, Joel Hodge, being as integral to the look of the film as the unique cameras. "I am an awful, awful cinematographer,” he confessed. “I have skills for building cameras. I have ideas for shots and looks, but I'm not the best at executing them. Joel has this awesome aesthetic ... We've worked together for so long, that I think our minds have melded a little bit."
Audiences will be seeing more of the Coatwolf for Glodell's future projects, which are currently under development – and closely under wraps. "I actually already have one more that I've built since Bellflower – it's kind of in the final stages. And then there's another one I have to build for a project that's coming up." What's next? "I imagine that all of us that worked on the movie … everybody will have a role of some sort on my next project … there is a script I've been working on that I have ready to go as soon as things slow down. I don't have a name for it yet or anything, so it's not as much fun yet to talk about." Destination unknown, it’s clear that Glodell’s career is accelerating beyond Bellflower’s dead-end future – with his technical innovations and D.I.Y. drive leading the way.
Bellflower opens in select theaters this weekend.