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Movie Review: Trionyx (Soft-Shelled Turtle)

Man wearing a costume with a turtle head in a surreal environment

In this previous Underground Film Journal post regarding videos from the 2007 Boston Underground Film Festival, I happened to mention that I was very interested in seeing the short film Trionyx, of which I put up an interesting looking, albeit breif, clip. Not too long after, director Nick Childs contacted me and offered to send me a copy. (You know what, more filmmakers should do this.)

I’ll re-embed the clip below and you’ll see it’s hard not to be charmed instantly by it. It’s very colorful, vibrant and whimsical looking with a freakish main character and has an excellently amusing narration. It’s that weirdly edited narration that really fuels the entire film. While I don’t watch enough of these kinds of films to spot any “trends” or anything, but it’s nice to see when filmmakers take to experimenting with sound as much as they do with images, like in Trionyx just as John R. Hand does in Frankensteins Bloody Nightmare.

In the clip you can hear the oddly layered narration, but being an embedded flash video, you really miss out on the dueling sound channels that the separate voices boom out of on the full DVD version. Rather than coming out disorienting or incomprehensible, the separate voice tracks are wonderfully mixed so that they add on top of each other rather than compete or distract. You know exactly what to listen to when. With a straight-up, single-voice narration, Trionyx would have been amusing to watch and still be quite funny, but with this added layering effect, it really sends the film over the top.

But more than the sound this is an very inventive little film, clocking in just under six minutes. Yet, when it’s over and you remember all the cool little bits: the anticipated fight with Godzilla, the “turtle” running on mixed media little boards, the dream sequence, the mad scientist-esque intro, the Turnip costume, the dream sequence, et. al., you think that the film has to be much longer to cram so much energy and vitality into it. But no, it’s still under six mins.

At the center of all that is great work of performance art, featuring a simply irresistible costume: jogging suit with fat ass and hole cut out for actor’s head for the body and an extended neck with a computer-modified face wearing a turtle helmet for the head. Not content to prance around and kung fu fight in a swirling dreamscape, the Soft-Shelled Turtle man goes out into public and regular passers-by stop and stare and gawk and laugh at this strange creature, not sure what to make of it. I have to assume that they are so mesmerized by the creature they don’t see the camera nearby filming because they can’t seem to figure out what the hell is going on.

And that pretty much sums up the film. There’s a hell of a lot going on it that all adds up to a real fun, entertaining short.

Watch this underground movie online!


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