Applecart is the newest film from Dustin Mills and his Crumpleshack Films studio. It’s also my first experience with the writer/director’s work. I knew absolutely nothing about it going in, and after the first few minutes, I didn’t think I was going to like what I was getting myself into. So many times indie directors attempt to make artsy flicks for the sake of calling themselves artists, only to fail miserably and have nothing to show for their time but an embarrassing mess of an unwatchable movie. Mills didn’t take long to convince me that he knew exactly what he was doing, and while there would be things that weren’t pleasant to watch, nothing was done by chance. Applecart is an engaging, at times disturbing, commentary on society and the masks we all sometimes wear.
The movie plays out in a series of short films that deal with normally taboo topics such as elderly abuse, domestic violence, religion, murder, rape, abortion, and so on. There’s no dialog, and all the actors wear white, mime-like masks. They convey emotion and what’s going on through body language alone, That might sound off-putting initially, and to be honest it kind of was, but the actors and actresses were stellar in their respective performances. I always knew exactly what they were trying to convey with their movements. There’s almost no sound at all, save for a bit of music, and applause and laugh tracks, as if the movie were being filmed in front of a live studio audience. Again, it took some getting used to, but I felt like this was a bit of a statement as well. How even when we see horrible things happening in the world today, we’re more likely to get out our cell phone and record video than actually lend a helping hand.
Applecart is also filmed in black and white, which fits the tone of the film perfectly. Mills uses lighting as effectively as I’ve ever seen. His camera angles vary from pulled back to right in the middle of things, and the stark contrast between dark and light works beautifully. There’s just something unnerving about the image of something horrible like a rape happen in bright white lighting. Each segment of the anthology is presented as a stand alone story, although I got the feeling they were all somehow connected. There were small similarities between the characters and locales, even though the movie never comes out and clarifies.
When the credits finally rolled after Applecart’s 56 minute run time, I was a bit disappointed that there wasn’t one or two more stories. I could’ve watched another hour of it. For my first exposure to Dustin Mills’ work, I came away quite impressed. I’ve since read that this is different than anything else he’s done, but I’ll definitely be tracking down his other movies, as well as keeping an eye out for future projects. If you’re looking for thought provoking, shocking, disturbing independent cinema, Applecart is one of the finest examples you’re going to come across. Highly recommended.