One can achieve some degree of immortality through being remembered, and one way through which we can be remembered is to create something memorable. If an artist creates, and someone down the line still reflects upon that creation, then that artist still lives on in some fashion. That individual may no longer physically exist, but their existence still has some impact on the current moment, and therefore they may as well still exist. Does it really matter if the individual impacting events is still alive if the impact’s nature doesn’t change, assuming it’s said impact that matters most.
Let’s roll with this idea– that we as individuals effectively still exist if our creations, whatever they may be, still impact reality after our physical deaths. What happens when our creations– the things that shape others and thus give us that continued existence– are twisted and reformed by others? What if, say, our impact is exploited by some other entity to fulfill their ends, and thus perpetuate their impact on the world? What if, say, your role as an actor/artist/what have you in a movie is franchised, copywritten, duplicated, and infinitely mass produced by the corporate owners long past your death? What if your impact becomes YOU: THE ADVENTURE RIDE.
Is that Hell?
What is essentially your soul has been warped beyond recognition by powers beyond your control. Your message is no longer your message, but a message repackaged to sell tickets, t-shirts, and action figures.
If this is you, then this must be akin to eternal damnation. That is horrifying. You know, running with that initial assumption and all.
That isn’t what’s at the heart of Reflections of Evil, but it’s one of the numerous kernels that seems to be swirling about in the vomit stream that is its maddening agenda.
This is the stuff of Outsider Art– movies and what have you made outside of normal production channels, not intended for typical mass audiences, and with a point of view decidedly askance of norms. It’s a 2+ hour collage of found footage, old commercials, and scenes shot on video tape filmed guerrilla style on the streets of Los Angeles and in Universal Studios. The description says something about a long-dead sister searching beyond the grave for her now-adult brother in order to help him.
Yeah. That’s definitely in here. Eventually. At times. When it feels like it.
The movies follows said brother, Bob, as he wanders around Los Angeles attempting to hock cheap watches to unwilling customers all while overindulging in sugary snacks. His own mother wants nothing to do with him, as he’s literally eating her out of house and home. As the movie progresses, everything around Bob seems to turn against him. While he’s never at home on the streets, the occasional odd person with a crazed look in their eyes becomes a horde of maniacs under the influence of black helicopters and chemtrails. Dogs who once seemed to be indifferent to his existence begin to attack him, causing their owners to also begin to succumb to rage. What begins as an anticomedy in the vein of Tim and Eric turns into a waking nightmare where laughter is a premeditated defense rather than a spontaneous reflex.
It’s a movie about how paranoia feeds itself. The more you see fear, the more fear finds you. It’s like the Hounds of Tindalos, where it’s only through your act of perceiving it that it can track you down to your specific place in time and space. Paranoia is its own form of addiction, where you “need” more and more as you go further down the path of mistrust. And the more Bob finds mistrust in the world, the more his sugar addiction takes hold. His paranoia feeds his mind and his body, and he grows bigger the more he fears his existence.
And that’s the stuff of conspiracy theory. Once you have your eyes “opened” to its perceived truths, the more you need to delve into its depths. It isn’t enough to just believe in Bigfoot or that the mob killed JFK. You “discover” that Chupacabra is a government experiment and that 9/11 was an inside job. But that’s just kid stuff, as you learn that the pyramids were built by the Anasazi and that the Nazis have a base on the dark side of the Moon (but the US never landed on the Moon, because of those Nazis). This movie was released in the wake of 9/11, and it builds on the decades of mistrust that led up to that day’s perfect storm of paranoia, disillusionment, and rabbit hole diving perversion. While Reflections of Evil is the sort of perfect, idyllic synthesis of this understandable reaction to a world seemingly out to get us all, it’s also about the hysteria that’s birthed when the mind doesn’t have the capacity to cope with that disbelief in a creative, focused way.
Bob is the crazy guy who preaches on the street corner about Revelations or who calls into Coast to Coast AM during open lines ever Friday night to echo the latest guest’s viewpoints. The world has chewed him up, taken his older sister via drug overdose, given him an uncaring mother, and placed him dead center in an apocalyptic city where every possible force imaginable seems to be conspiring against him.
He’s impotent. He’s ineffective. He’s always coming up with just enough money to restock his crappy watches, but never anything to show beyond that. And all he can do is eat.
That’s where the movie’s heading all along. Bob is dead, just like his sister. He’s stuck in his own little Hell, as he died on the grounds of Universal Studios on the ET ride, likely due to a diabetic episode. And yet even in death he can’t escape. The afterlife is the stuff of Schindler’s List: THE RIDE and people endlessly looping their unfortunate deaths at the hands of faulty amusement rides. He may be reunited with his sister, but they’re just sharing in that aforementioned Hell crafted in the image of others.
Maybe he’s always been dead. Or maybe all this led to his dead. It’s maddening either way.
That’s the “evil” upon which this movie’s reflecting. It’s that uncertainty and that inability to trust anything. This is a world that’s indifferent to you in the best of times, and likely actively conspiring against you in every other moment.
Even in death it’s inescapable.
TO BE CONTINUED