Directed by Michael Tully
Written by Michael Tully
Starring Robert Longstreet, Onur Tukel, Michael Tully, Mark Darby Robinson, Rachel Korine, Jim Willingham, & John Maringouin
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Though not necessarily a horror film, SEPTIEN is so uncategorizable that it somehow works to be looked at here on AICN HORROR. Michael Tully is definitely going to be a force to look for in film. The world he’s created in SEPTIEN is vivid and bizarre all at once. Tully’s film plays like a mish-mash jigsaw puzzle where we come in halfway through the narrative and even though it may not be the world outside your window you’re entering, Tully’s simplistic style makes it all easy to follow. How do I describe this film? Take elements from Wes Anderson’s THE ROYAL TENNENBAUMS and Harmonie Corrine’s GUMMO, and present it through the deadpan delivery of most of David Lynch’s films especially THE STRAIGHT STORY, plus a dash of Terry Zwigoff’s CRUMB, and I think you’re on the right track. At the same time, SEPTIEN is wholly original.
Let me try to describe the plot of this film; the Rawling Brothers; Ezra (the anal retentive matriarch played by Robert Longstreet) and Amos (Onur Tukel, a slacker artist who looks and talks a lot like Zach Galafinakis) live a humble life in the Southern countryside. Ezra endlessly cooks and cleans. Amos paints pictures of violent and sexual acts in the barn. Wilbur, (possibly another brother) lives in the giant tire in the backyard. Their simple existence is shattered when their other brother Cornelius (played by Michael Tully himself) returns to the home after being gone for fifteen years. The brothers are both excited and concerned about their returning sibling. After a short adjustment period, the family seems to be functioning well until a dark secret from the past is unearthed when the toilet explodes and the septic tank repair man (named Red Rooster) and the young girl he sleeps with (Savannah played by Rachel Korine) arrives on the scene. The return of Red Rooster upsets the balance that has just begun to form in the household. A wandering preacher appears out of nowhere as (to quote Clive Barker) the savior to some…demon to others.
The story plays out almost half hazardly as characters and events tumble in and out of the frame. Everyone is just kind of doing their own thing throughout this film; Ezra is cleaning incessantly, Amos paints graphic pictures that sometimes come true, Wilbur finds a video camera and decides to make a movie, and returning brother Cornelius swindles the locals out of cash by beating them in basketball, tennis, and a simple game of toss. The interactions between the brothers are beautifully simplistic. Though dialog is prevalent throughout, a lot of this film is communicated through simple gestures and static shots of the brothers just living their lives and sometimes bumping into one another while doing their own thing. I almost regretted the inclusion of story with the introduction of the Red Rooster, his young consort, and a wandering preacher because it interrupted the fascinating scenes of banality between the brothers.
Again, this isn’t for hardcore horror fans. It’s just plain weird. But fun. Until it gets pretty damn serious toward the end and then it becomes not so fun for the folks involved. I honestly could have watched this unconventional family for a few more hours and not be sick of their bizarre and banal lives. With an impromptu musical interlude in the middle and lines like “Have you ever been force-fed a cheeseburger sitting next to half a body? Let me tell you, there’s a before that experience and an after…you’re talking to an after.” occurring throughout, SEPTIEN is one of those film experiences that may remind you of bits and pieces of other films, but engraves itself into your psyche. It’s a film about brotherhood that is as unique as it is fascinating, with an ending that is chillingly impactful.