Atmo HorroX (2016), directed by Pat Tremblay.
Written by Pat Tremblay.
Starring Roch Desrosiers, Syl Disjonk and Claude Dubé.
Does comparing Pat Tremblay’s Atmo HorroX to John Boorman’s classic Zardoz elevate one, diminish the other, or condemn both? Both films are psychedelic, trippy, and include protagonists that wander around in outlandish costumes that show rather more skin than most of us would like to see. Both are infused with timely messages, expressed through grotesquerie. Despite the dubious value of the venture, reams could be written deconstructing both films. If nothing else, we know that movies like Atmo HorroX are extremely rare, sprung whole from a unique, bizarre, individual vision, and once you’ve seen them they leave visuals in your consciousness that require brain surgery to fully exorcize.
Writer/director/producer Tremblay says of Atmo HorroX, “[I]t’s kind of a psychedelic horror b-movie inside an experimental satire and then wrapped into a cryptic mystery thriller,” and after having seen it, I believe him. To describe the film is to destroy it, like cutting open a living creature to determine why it’s alive. The movie unfolds in its own pace, granting you its narrative in pieces that do come together, eventually, but only if you sit down and watch it. Which isn’t difficult, because there are parts that you simply cannot turn away from.
Tremblay manages to make its low budget an integral element of the movie rather than a drawback. Part of this is done though humor, of which there is a great deal; despite its freakish, grotesque visuals, it doesn’t take itself entirely seriously. For example, Catafuse, the protagonist, wanders around town wearing thistle-covered pantyhose covering his body, and from his crotch a profusion of massive balloons wags with each of his galumphing steps. To see him once would be a sight gag, but somehow, along with everything else, his ridiculousness takes on a kind of normalcy: he’s supposed to be this way, gold teeth and all. The bizarre color filters, the soundtrack, the practical effects all combine to make you want to keep watching, to see it through to an end that doesn’t disappoint.
There’s a message behind it, but like so much about Atmo HorroX, it needs to be experienced rather than described. How do I talk about the guy driving around town with the bucket in his lap, or the dog-loving man with the goggles, or the woman eating Cheetos, or the disturbing family picnic in a way that makes sense without ruining the film for you? I can’t.
You’re just going to have to watch it yourself.