Dave White
Keyhole Review

Dave's Rating:


There's no place like home.

Jason Patric is Ulysses Pick, a small-time, B-movie-style gangster who comes back to his old house carrying a half-drowned woman and a bound, gagged, young man named Manners. Ulysses doesn't realize that Manners is his own son; he's too busy searching the house for his wife Hyacinth (Isabella Rossellini), who happens to be upstairs in her bedroom waiting for him alongside an old, naked, chained-up ghost.

There are other ghosts, too. Like the female one on all fours who, when Kids in the Hall alum Kevin McDonald tries to have his way with her, tazes him with her butt. Or like the one who masturbates and shouts, "Double Yahtzee!" behind a closed door. Or the one who's forever shouting into a glass of milk. These are the apparitions Ulysses has to maneuver around as he wanders through corridors and rooms on his own Odyssey of family ties. There's a storm raging outside ("men's weather," says Ulysses) but it's inside where the danger lies: a furnace full of exploding guns, burdensome taxidermy, a homemade, bicycle-powered electric chair, severed limbs and Udo Kier. Welcome to happily deranged Canadian filmmaker Guy Maddin's haunted house. He would like you to stick around. If, while you're here, you decide to have sex with one of the ghosts, then fine.

It's a sad place full of secrets, one where "sorrow lingers." It's also full of the title's keyholes, bullet holes and, appropriately enough considering the places Maddin's movies have gone in the past, gloryholes. As he makes his way through the black-and-white box of confusion, Ulysses walks past one, out of which pokes a long-neglected erection, which causes him to note, "That penis is getting dusty."

And whatever else isn't covered in dust is shrouded in hazy memories, some belonging to Ulysses, others to Hyacinth and others that seem to be transported via a system of pneumatic tubes. Either way, like his blind literary namesake, Ulysses is instructed to "never trust [his] eyes," so he stumbles and feels his way through the sexually damaged un-funhouse. Compounding the delirium is a woozy score from composer Jason Staczek and Maddin's trademark image-layering, multiple exposures and often impenetrable vintage film references. It's a story about stories, a dream about dreams and a movie about movies, the kind that rewards repeat viewings. Just don't go in thinking you'll piece it all together cleanly and find your way home, no matter how many times you return. Maddin's characters aren't the only people he wants to unmoor and hypnotize, he'll do the same thing to you. Your task is to live with the mystery.


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