Cinematic Releases: Aimy in a Cage

Andrew takes an early peek at the manic and crazed Aimy in a Cage.

Is this Saw?
The directorial debut of graphic novelist Hooroo Jackson, Aimy in a Cage, is either one of the year's most insanely visually creative films or one of the most annoying assaults on the eyes and ears in recent memory.  Funded entirely through Bitcoin with the director's own money, Aimy in a Cage is a surreal and often psychotic fantasy about an eccentric and artistic teenager whose oppressive parents will stop at nothing to breed her painterly proclivities out of her.  But not if she proceeds to drive them (and us) crazy first as the family barricades inside their home amidst a mysterious plague wiping out the human population in record numbers.  Partially a screwball comedy of sorts with overtones of bizarre horror and wide angle lenses, it's the bastard child of Tim Burton and Terry Gilliam with all of their worst impulses turned up to 11 here.  If you thought Rob Zombie was trying too hard, you haven't seen Aimy in a Cage yet.   Something of a nonstop shriek of full throated screaming and yelling, Aimy in a Cage and it's titular protagonist (or antagonist, depending on your point of view) will manage to get under your skin despite it's short 78 minute running time and inexplicably abrupt ending.  I didn't think it was possible for there to be a fantasy epic more repulsive than Terry Gilliam's Tideland but Aimy in a Cage came pretty close to ejecting me from my seat several times and I'm not sure if that was the intention.

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Hellooo Nurse!
As for the good, the film is visually beautiful with handsome camerawork, wide angle shots that would make Bob Clark blush and set design evoking the kitschy mania of Pee-Wee's Playhouse.  Borrowing everything from Beetlejuice to Natural Born Killers' rapid fire frenetic editing replete with subliminal cuts to pages presumably from Jackson's graphic novel to random miasmas of paint, it's a film that like it's heroine desperately wants to be seen as an artistic type.  Jackson also brings Wes Anderson into the mix with smart nosed storybook intertitles and characters.  Clearly Jackson loves the creative visual fantasy film and on the one hand it's laudable that Hooroo Jackson went from being an outsider to having made a feature film, having sold many of his personal belongings to make the project possible.  On the other hand, what's here largely consists of every cast member screaming their lines at the top of their vein popping lungs with their bug-eyes bulging out of their sockets and I realized while watching this that Dieter Laser (who screamed his way out of The Human Centipede III) would have been perfectly at home here.  That said, the cast (including but not limited to Crispin Glover, Allisyn Ashley Arm, Paz De La Huerta and Academy Award nominee Terry Moore) does what they can with the material and Arm as the titular Aimy is given the unenviable task of making our heroine as hyperactive and annoying as possible.  In the back of my mind as Aimy begins to rebel and scream her fool head off, I was reminded of Linda Blair in The Exorcist.  If The Exorcist were ever to be remade, God-forbid, Alliysn Ashley Arm would be my first choice as she looks and sounds more than a little possessed here. 

I'm having difficulty controlling 
Remember when Donnie Darko and other like-minded wannabe David Lynch films were coming out of the woodwork after Mulholland Drive?  That's kind of what you get here, a film that works so hard at being in league with the likes of Gilliam, Lynch and Burton that it kind of burns itself out without knowing what made their films stick beyond visual iconography.  For as much insanity as all three auteurs threw at you, they had moments of pause to allow the viewer to get their bearings before throwing them back into the madhouse.  With Aimy in a Cage, it's so unrelenting and rapid fire that dramatic moments simply don't register and the only real weapon here is really high volume.  Yes Jackson's heart is in the right place and somewhere within his graphic novel Aimy Micry is a good story about teen rebellion filtered through the prism of insane familial repression.  As for the film, unfortunately it's like watching an overzealous waiter's first day on the job, so eager to please that he doesn't think to look before stepping on a banana peel sending him and all his entrees flying everywhere.  For as short as the film's running time is, I kept checking the time waiting for it to be over.  When it finally finished, I needed a few minutes to dispel the headache Aimy in a Cage managed to give me.  I've said it before and I'll say it again, screams in film can be a very powerful dramatic tool if used properly and at the right times.  It can signal fear, anger, frustration and a multitude of emotions, allowing viewers room to empathize with a character.  When everyone in the movie is screaming constantly however, it becomes dull and irritating over time and proves too much overuse of a good thing can indeed be toxic.


-Andrew Kotwicki