Movie Review: Felony Flats
Felony Flats is, for all intents and purposes, a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde story — except that the good doctor never appears on screen. Instead, he hides behind the camera in the form of director Bob Moricz. The Mr. Hyde is, of course, also Moricz himself, as the film’s main character, Todd, a hideous-looking, mentally-impaired man.
The early scenes of Felony Flats are reminiscent of the early scenes of David Lynch‘s Eraserhead. Both films begin with a bizarre-looking character with hair piled way high on top of his head stumbling around a decrepit, ramshackle neighborhood. In Moricz’s case, this is the Portland, Oregon region nicknamed Felony Flats, which has a history that matches its name, but is in the process of being cleaned up.
Like Lynch’s Henry Spencer, Moricz’s Todd is the type of character who doesn’t do much, but becomes involved in various uncomfortable situations. While Eraserhead centered around a disorienting plunge into parenthood, Felony Flats allows Todd to remain in a constant juvenile state while hooking up with a variety of ne’er-do-wells.
Todd is a freak, both mentally and physically. In addition to the dime store fright wig and grotesque false teeth, Moricz adopts a blank, hollow stare, as if he’s completely registering the reality of the world around him differently than everyone else.
To bring this internal disconnect and disorientation of Todd’s to an external experience for the audience, the first scene that includes dialogue is practically completely obscured by the industrial electronic music soundtrack. This is a scene between Todd and his therapist, who tries to urge his patient to not get involved with criminals or do drugs. The words are barely audible and don’t penetrate Todd’s consciousness. The audience at least gets a few snippets that move the plot somewhat forward.
We learn that Todd has a cousin who constantly gets Todd into bad situations. Soon enough, we meet this instigator and the boys are quickly smoking pot and hooking up with an even bigger troublemaker, Leland.
With the introduction of the cousin, the action in Felony Flats begins to pick up in a somewhat episodic nature, but culminating in a lengthy scene where Todd terrifies a group of girls having a house party. The women are revolted by Todd’s physical appearance, but also refer constantly to his horrific body odor. They scream and squeal and do their best to get away from the beast who simply refuses to leave, perhaps on the off chance he’ll get lucky with one of them.
Moricz has already produced an autobiographical documentary called I Am Ugly and I Want to Die So Why Don’t You Just Please F— Me. It’s clear that Felony Flats, while a fictional narrative, is an extension of the theme expressed in that earlier film’s title. Todd is some sort of outward expression about elements Moricz must feel about himself on the inside.
The main difference between character and director, though, is that while Todd passively drifts through life letting others guide him, Moricz is an extremely active filmmaker, cranking out low-budget productions by the fistful. But, that inner outcast is brought out into the open in such a brazen, forceful way. The filmmaker is asking us to look upon and judge him at his worst. Instead of hiding behind his cheap-o disguise, the wig and teeth make his inner self all the more visible.
Using Felony Flats as a location and the low-budget direct video shooting style also serves as an outward expression of Moricz’s inner turmoil. Todd isn’t fit to be a part of normal society. Instead, he hangs around its fringes, going on ride-alongs to porno shops and dive bars and crashing parties to which he would never be invited.
Todd also isn’t lit in any dramatic or flattering light. The camera is typically held very close, so that we are face to face with Todd throughout most of the film. There is simply no escaping him, from the moment he appears on screen until the end credits roll.
All films are, to some degree, autobiographical. Few films, though, severely ask us to judge their makers on such a personal level as Felony Flats.
Watch the Felony Flats underground movie trailer: