23rd Nov2014

MonsterFest 2014: ‘Under a Kaleidoscope’ Review

by Phil Wheat

Stars: Kenji Shimada, Kristen Condon, Aston Elliot, Damien Vennell, Tim Jason Wicks, Glenn Maynard | Written and Directed by Addison Heath

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Addison Heath, writer of the recently released Chocolate Strawberry Vanilla, re-teams with some of the cast from that film – including Kristen Condon, Aston Elliot and a scene-stealing Glenn Maynard (as a crazy TV evangelist) – for his feature film directorial debut Under a Kaleidoscope, a film which is less of a traditional narrative tale and more a look at life through an LSD haze.

The crux of the film deals with Caleb Loomis (Shimada) an agoraphobic twenty-something who spends his days making UFO movies with cardboard props, eating baked beans, smoking weed and downing an unhealthy amount of LSD. One afternoon, after hearing his neighbour Beatrice (Condon) being being abused for the umpteenth time, he strikes up a friendship with her through a hole in the wall…

I say crux of the film as Under a Kaleidoscope is much more than just it’s story. Writer and director Addison Heath blends psychedelic visuals and a pounding soundtrack to create an assault on the senses, a visual trip if you will; and, like Chocolate Strawberry Vanilla, Heath punctuates this story with shocking acts of brutal violence.

Two feature films into his career and it’s clear that Heath has a penchant for writing movies with extremely strong central characters, so much so that both Chocolate Strawberry Vanilla and Under a Kaleidoscope are essentially one-actor movies, revolving around the central character to such an extent that without strong performances from their leads they would surely not be as enjoyable. Or as successful.

This time round the central character is the antithesis of Glenn Maynard’s in CSV, yet actor Kenji Shimada gives a very similar, very real performance. So real in fact that you have to wonder where the line between actor and character ends! Thankfully Shimada’s performances reaches further than just stoner agoraphobic and even with his outrageous behaviour (and strange appearance) he still manages to create an empathic bond with the audience, so that come Under a Kaleidoscope‘s finale the audience is really rooting for Caleb to overcome his phobia in order to save the girl from the clutches of Aston Elliot’s Rog “Hatchet Man” Smith – a character as despicable and reprehensible as his pimp role in Chocolate Strawberry Vanilla (after watching both films in relative succession I’m not sure if Heath relishes Elliot’s evil performances or just wants to put him through the proverbial acting ringer).

It’s interesting to note that for how dissimilar Heath’s scripts are on the surface, Under a Kaleidoscope is not actually that far removed from Chocolate Strawberry Vanilla. Both films deal with men on the edge of sanity – be it voluntarily or involuntarily – and both touch on truly dark, some might say bleak, subject matter. It’s fair to say Heath’s cinematic vision is a world far removed from the Australia we typically see here in the UK on the TV soaps!

An impressive feature debut, reportedly shot on a meagre $10000 AUD, Under a Kaleidoscope is one of those films that will no doubt divide mainstream audiences. But for those that love discovering new, somewhat offbeat and challenging movies, Heath’s film is definitely one to add to the must-see list.

**** 4/5

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