Posts Tagged ‘"Stanleyville"’

Julian Richings as Homunculus

“STANLEYVILLE” My rating: C+ (In theaters)

89 minutes | No MPAA rating

The bizzaro Canadian satire “Stanleyville” might best be described as a  Poverty Row variation on “Squid Game.”

 In this debut feature from writer/director Maxwell McCabe-Lokos a group of dissatisfied individuals are invited to compete in a series of contests, with the winner driving away in a ”habanero-orange compact sport utility vehicle.”

But there’s more at stake, according to the event’s convener, who promises nothing less than “authentic personal transcendence.”

Maria (Susanne Wuest) has a dead-end office job, a couch potato husband and a surly teenage daughter.  So she’s receptive when at a shopping mall a painfully thin man who identifies himself as Homunculus (Julian Richings) approaches here with the news — he’s haltingly reciting an obviously memorized script —  that she’s been specifically chosen to participate in a top secret contest.

It’s not the idea of winning a car that appeals to Maria; rather it’s the challenge. Anything to throw a monkey wrench into her humdrum existence.

Soon she finds herself in competition “pavilion,” actually a space in an old office building that looks and feels like a church social hall…or maybe the faculty lounge at an underfunded public school. 

Homunculus is there to read the convoluted contest rules from a clipboard.  If anybody tries to leave the room before the game is over, nobody wins.

The games themselves range from the mundane (who can blow up and explode the most balloons using only lung power?) to the wacko.  For one challenge contestants are given several hours to build from a junkyard assortment of odds and ends “a functioning telecommunications device.”  Maria’s invention is a conch shell outfitted with wires and antennae that throbs with hot pink illumination and actually plucks ghostly voices from the ether.

McCabe-Lokos and cowriter Rob Benvie populate this limited world with contestants who represent various attitudes reflective of our modern times.

There’s an angry young black woman (Cara Ricketts), a musclebound guy (George Tchortov) constantly slurping protein drinks while trying to rope the other players into his health supplement pyramid scheme; an incredibly fey and goofy “actor” (Adam Brown), and a pompous go-getter (Christian Serritiello) whose open contempt for the other players cannot hide the fact that he’s all windup and no delivery.

Early on the contestants are advised that the game’s most important rule is “do whatever it takes to win.” Add a pistol to the mix and bad things happen.

“Stanleyville’s” cryptic title apparently refers to the photograph on the pavilion wall of Henry Morton Stanley, the Victorian journalist who successfully penetrated the “Dark Continent” to find the missing explorer David Livingstone. Although exactly what we’re to make of this historic reference escapes this reviewer.

Some clever stuff here, but even at a tidy 89 minutes “Stanleyville” runs out of steam after a promising start, leaving us with far more questions than answers. 

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