04th Apr2018

‘Lung’ Review (Unearthed Films)

by Andy Stewart

Stars: Phil Stevens, David Chopping, Samantha Coppola, Angela Jane, Michael Kennedy, Bryant W. Lohr Sr., Colette Kenny Mckenna | Written and Directed by Phil Stevens

lung-dvd

What I am about to say might shock you to your very core. Ready? Extreme horror isn’t for everyone.

Boom! That was the sound of your minds being blown.

If you fall into this aforementioned camp and like your horror a little lighter, then keep moving along. If, however, you fancy joining the hordes of rabid fans clamouring for this material and taking the plunge into something quite a way away from the mainstream then you really should start by taking a peek at the slate of films being offered up by those fine folks at Unearthed Films, arguably the finest distributor of the best extreme and bizarre cinema in the world.

Which brings us swiftly on to Phil Stevens’ Lung.

As someone with a well-documented interest in gore cinema, I had heard about Stevens’ debut feature Flowers and swiftly sought it out. It’s a squalid, grimy descent into purgatory that you can almost smell. While an undeniably visceral, troubling experience, Flowers also struck me as being particularly well made, artistic and deeper than it appears on the surface. I thought it was quite brilliant.

With the memory of Flowers fresh in my mind, I leapt at the chance to check out Lung, frankly surprised that it had taken me so long. I was intrigued to see how Stevens would approach this, his sophomore effort and it’s refreshing to see that Stevens does not shy away from the seeds sown by Flowers, rather expands on them, pushing Lung in a direction that is recognisably similar yet still willing to be different.

It is clear from pretty early on that Lung exists firmly in the same world as Flowers, elbow-deep in the dirt and filth. After an extended opening scene where we watch a corpse being dismembered in voyeuristic detail, we join our nameless protagonist (played with fearless commitment by Stevens himself in a literally balls-out, batshit performance) as he wanders around, seemingly lost and aimless, all-the-while haunted by visions of death and decay. Are these glimpses into the future or memories? Flowers actor Bryant W. Lohr Sr. reprises his role here. What is his connection to the nameless man?

Make no mistake, there are no easy answers here. Lung is at times an inscrutable and baffling experience. Following no discernible timeline, this is certainly not a film for those who enjoy simple, linear storylines. Filmed entirely in stark black and white, Lung is an abstraction, the angry son of Eraserhead, left to stew in its own effluence. It is the demented fever dream of a director beholden to no-one.

The lack of colour in the films actually helps to reinforce the visuals by encouraging us, the viewer, to paint the image in our head, should we so desire. Meat glimmers, blood pools, sprays and pours freely and every rancid, rotten pile of meat and tissue is lovingly explored by knives and fingers in unflinching detail. The refrigerator scene is a prime example of this, not to mention being a wonderfully Cronenbergian moment.

As with Flowers before it, Lung is free of any discernible dialogue, rather relying on a thoroughly unsettling soundscape reinforcing the punishing visuals while the score, when it arrives, is understated and complimentary in its mournfulness.

Obviously, a film like this requires some strong effects work and, fortunately that is in good hands courtesy of FX wizard Marcus Koch and Stevens himself who carry the bulk of the work. That’s not to say all is seamless. There are some decidedly rubbery moments and reused props but that can be forgiven given the sheer amount of madness that Stevens is prepared to throw at the screen on a shoestring budget. Even a jaded gore-hound like me has no qualms about admitting that I was left wincing by a scene involving broken glass and bare feet.

Lung is a hard review. A review by its definition calls for a judgement but Lung exists beyond that. Fair weather horror fans, or those who enjoy the comforts of simple, concise storytelling can keep on walking. Similarly, those of a more sensitive nature. There’s little for you here.

If, like me, you enjoy something a little more challenging, you will find a lot to love here. Lung is an unapologetic dunk into a putrescent sea of human run-off from a director who is just getting started and with Stevens now polishing off Flowers 2, I look forward to seeing what he has lined up next.

You can almost smell it.

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