Movie Review: Krimi
Take any standard Hollywood action thriller and strip out all convoluted backstories, remove all romantic subplots, shoot down any unnecessary exposition, eviscerate all special effects — CGI and practical — and film the whole thing with Super 8 and camcorders. Do all that and you’ve got yourself another Bob Moricz masterpiece.
In Krimi, a mysterious stranger rolls back into town searching for a missing family member and becomes embroiled in the seedy criminal underground that he’s tried so hard to escape. That’s the kind of set-up that’s fueled a zillion movie plots. Here, though, writer/director/editor Moricz has boiled that plot completely down to its absolute essentials and filmed the whole thing in his trademark surrealist lo-fi style that the end product is a trip into a nightmarish netherzone that bears absolutely no resemblance to reality.
Moricz himself stars as that mysterious stranger — the awesomely named Vic Slezak — and he transforms himself into the role with his familiar technique of putting on a fright wig and wandering into each scene like he’s just arrived from another planet. Although the film begins modestly enough with Slezak calling his mom from a pay phone, he is immediately pursued by another contract killer, played by Pacific Northwest underground acting staple West Ramsey.
This is, of course, an extremely simple set-up, but Moricz strongly flexes several of his strengths here to create an astounding little action-packed sequence with these hitmen. From the appropriately grungy industrial gangplank location; to the blown-out cinematography complete with dizzying camera spins, swoops and twists; to the “You shot my sideburn” running gag — All creating a completely disorienting viewing experience.
But, let’s also mention the film’s intense soundtrack. All dialogue — except for Slezak’s — is aggressively distorted through some sort of synthesizer; the music is an ear piercing mix of electronic screeches and squawks; and there is even a nice layer of sound effect foleys. One might not expect a low budget affair like this to have foley sound, but here it is. Perhaps the only other comparable underground filmmaker who uses such a denseness of sound is Damon Packard.
It’s also no secret that Moricz’s early filmmaking mentor was the iconic George Kuchar and Krimi certainly has an especially Kucharian streak, especially in the way it taps into and upends familiar Hollywood tropes, except without a gay camp sensibility. That non-campy dryness and the way most of the film involves Slezak wandering around waiting for something to happen does make Krimi a distant cousin of Amos Poe’s No Wave pseudo-gangster drama The Foreigner.
Yet, while Packard, Kuchar and Poe are all celebrated independent filmmakers, Moricz toils away in the ultra-underground, still irrepressibly churning terrific entertainment for those in on the fun he is having. It’s Moricz’s stridently fierce commitment to lo-lo-fi filmmaking that make many of his best gags perhaps misunderstood.
For example, one of the groovier sequences of Krimi is when Slezak wanders through the mysterious Yellow Queen Bar, running into a gaggle of unseemly criminal types, all of which are just actors wearing Halloween prop shop masks with their ludicrous names — such as Turkey Joe Junior, Propus the Fourth and Rim Creeper — superimposed on the bottom of the screen. The scene is an excellent send-up of the “Rally the Spies!” sequences in thrillers like The Bourne Identity, which we tend to buy into in the way they utilize high tech graphics and slickly produced electronic scores very well, but, are in actuality incredibly dumb scenes.
Also, for years, Moricz has been a staple of the Portland art film scene. Recently, he’s moved back to his home state of California and Krimi has a feeling of being a goodbye love letter to Portland. But the city that Moricz films — the dive bars, seedy motels, abandoned mini-malls, freeway murals and the men’s room at a closed-down amusement park — exists as a grungy alternate counterpart to the cutesy hipster city that the popular TV show Portlandia mocks.
Krimi is currently for sale in Moricz’s Etsy shop. The DVD comes with two similarly themed films, Rich Little Richard III versus the Crack Whore Army and Kash House Meat Cleavage.
Rich Little Richard III is a mostly plot-less affair, combining passages from the Shakespeare play being read on the soundtrack combined with visual profiles of masked characters — particularly a JFK masked man — committing violent atrocities against each other. It’s a surreal good time and plays like an extended version of the Yellow Queen Bar scene in Krimi.
Kash House Meat Cleavage has, like Krimi, a defined plot, but is much more comedic in tone in how it details the criminally degenerate Kash family who like to kick lawyers’ asses and then engage in some father-son incest afterward. It’s pure ludicrous and hilarious nastiness.
The three films combined make for a great package.