This Zellner Brothers new film screens tonight at 7pm at Denver Pavilions
If you’re not familiar with the Zellner brothers, my recommendation is to get acquainted right away by watching their short film Sasquatch Birth Journal 2.
Well, the Zellner’s are back with another monster movie. This one is about a little girl named Annie, played by Sidney Aguirre. She likes to break things, steal things, hit passing cars with pastry dough, and shoot dead cows with paintball guns. If you grow up on isolated farmland, these might be a few of the fun activities you’d spend your time doing if you didn’t know better.
She’s not the most sympathetic character, but have you ever met a kid you liked? Give me a break.
Nathan Zellner, the DP/Editor who is one-half of the Zellner brothers (the other writes and directs) makes an appearance as Marvin, the father of Kid-Thing. If the movie was about him, it would probably be called Father-Thing. One of my favorite scenes is when he shows Kid-Thing how to hypnotize a chicken. He places the chicken on the ground, lowers its head, and with a piece of pink chalk draws a straight line on the ground away from its beak. He lets the chicken go, and it lies motionless in a frozen daze. “We just blew its mind,” he says.
Here’s a real world example:
Throughout Kid-Thing I felt like the chicken on the ground. I can’t honestly explain it but the Zellner’s are great at hypnosis. The straight line they draw is the point of view of the little girl and they never deviate from that. Make no mistake – this is her world we’re in.
That world is populated by the types of characters you just don’t get to see in most movies. In one scene Kid-Thing goes to her neighbor’s house and they sit together for a while talking about personal morals and values while he strums his guitar. The scene is fascinating because the Zellners found a strange looking guy to play the neighbor. I would not be surprised to learn the man who plays him is as blind and disfigured in real life as he is portrayed in the movie.
Little creative choices, like who to cast in even the smallest roles, start to add up in a feature film and they result in contributing enormously to the tone and feel of the entire world. I think the Zellner’s do a fantastic job of making those little choices and keeping the audience constantly thrown for a loop as to what they expect will happen next.
It is not a plot heavy film. There is an underlying story about an old bitter woman who is trapped in a hole in the ground. We don’t know how she got there, but soon Kid-Thing feels like doing something about it. The ways she helps her, and perhaps more significantly the ways she doesn’t, left me with the feeling that Kid-Thing was a reluctant hero, thrown into a world she didn’t ask to be in, navigating it the way only her nature allowed. Sometimes her nature is kind, sometimes it is violent. But it is always confused, and always curious.
It also raised an interesting question about our own self development. If by spending enough time in the world making mistakes, can we learn from them, or do we start as Kid-Things and risk becoming Adult-Things?
In one scene Kid-Thing asks her father why he reads a self-help book. He says it’s a guide on how to act and be a better person. Her response is, how do they know what’s good for us? Father-thing is almost stumped by the question. He says, “They just know, I guess.”
An ambivalent answer if there ever was one.
See it or skip it