Sitges 2011: HELLACIOUS ACRES: THE CASE OF JOHN GLASS Review

Have you ever had one of those days where you wake up in a strange spacesuit, being told by an automated message that the world has ended several hundred years before due to war and alien invasion, and you must get to a certain sector using a computer that flashes instructions on a screen in front of your eyes? Probably not. But John Glass has, and in Pat Tremblay's hysterical sci-fi comedy Hellacious Acres: The Case of John Glass, Glass finds himself in just such a situation. And gosh darn, it's frustrating, in a very Canadian way.

The film is presented with a kind of 1980s home movie graininess, as if imitating how Glass now views the world in his Robocop-castoff suit. The recorded voice, a nice woman who tells him that he must go to secret locations to retrieve codes to make the earth livable again as if giving him instructions on how to access his voicemail. He finds himself talking back to the voice in vain, and getting oh so ticked off when things just don't go his way. For the first half of the film, Glass wanders around the abandoned wilderness, lost and confused, with no memory of what happened before he work up in the suit. Early in the film, he meets with what seem to be a group of humans dressed in suits like Sand people, who don't believe he is one of their kind. Things get very dramatic indeed when he must dispose of his waste through a strange tube, and in a moment of stress he lets cigarette smoke drift back through the same tube, never sure it will even reach his lungs. And he must avoid the invading aliens still at large, strange jelly fish-like creatures that float above the ground like refugees from a early music video. Rock guitar accompanies Glass' strange and seemingly fruitless journey, as he records logs on his search for other signs of life. It's the little things that get you down - stepping on sticks when you're trying to get away from aliens, bags of canned food in the way when you're trying to hide in the barn.

It might at first look like something a college kid put together for YouTube, but the entire composition of the film is well-conceived and deliberate in appearance and execution. Tremblay is not throwing us into this environment as a joke; it is an homage, and a clever one at that. Navin Patrap is the straight man without the funny man comedy partner, but doesn't need one with his crispness and resigned voice, portraying Glass as the everyman, slowly going insane in his bodily confinement and loneliness. If I have a criticism of the film, it is that at nearly 2 hours, it is too long The secret of comedy is timing, and the tighter the timing the better. On occasion the film lags, and there are a few too many shots of Glass just walking through a relatively uninteresting wilderness.

But then again, in a post apocalyptic world with no one to talk to, life would probably get pretty boring, and you might wish for the appearance of aliens just for a bit of excitement. But poor Glass, he must soldier on alone, and hope more loud sticks don't get in the way.
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