One of the most difficult subjects to tackle in film is suicide, mainly because it requires an enormous amount of skill and tact from the director, writer, and actor if it’s to be taken seriously. When done right, suicide is justified and compelling, but more often than not it slips into the realm of cheap melodrama and rings utterly false. I suppose the call can only be made if the viewer asks themselves, “Does it make sense for this character in this situation to commit suicide?” If even for a moment they doubt the need for this dramatic plot device, then perhaps a more thoughtful conclusion should have been created. I had to ask myself this key question while I watched Emo Pill, and the answer came all too swiftly.
Emo Pill is presented by Anthony Spadaccini and Fleet Street Films, the latest of their projects to confront a life issue. Visually it is the best film to ever be released by the independent studio, and I applaud Spadaccini’s eye for making this short a pleasure to simply watch. He avoids dialogue altogether and instead presents some truly fascinating shots of the outdoors, affected in post-production to give them a surreal, otherworldly quality. The copper-colored sky appears to froth and churn with anger, while a recurring lake image evokes unsettling feelings of both serenity and emptiness. This unique vision is hindered greatly when the camera moves indoors, the difference between true art and someone’s final exam for a high school film course. While unfortunate, these indoor shots make you appreciate the outdoor material all the more.
I think Spadaccini would have had a full success on his hands if he had simply trusted his sense for the abstract, but like some of his other films, he felt the need to infuse Emo Pill with obvious overtones and a charades-style story. The main character is a young teen with notions of killing himself, moving through life with a catatonic stare and little interest in the world around him. It would be interesting if his sadness was ambiguous, his motivations unclear, but Spadaccini tries to clumsily explain matters anyway. Our boy walks into his living room only to find his overweight, slothful father getting a rub down from a raunchy black girl who sucks on a lollipop. Minutes later another woman enters the house, followed by a man who proceeds to make out with her. All of this pleases the filthy degenerate of a father, but it makes his son mope and pout. The acting on display here is atrocious, making it even more difficult for me to understand why Spadaccini felt this was a good way to show how our hero’s life was “difficult.”
Later on we learn Emo Boy is truly going down the path of darkness, as shown by his purchasing of drugs by a couple of sleazy pushers. One of the dope fiends is played by Spadaccini, and after seeing his performance here and in En Passant I am fully convinced he should not be an actor. The man cannot express a subtle thought to save his life, and honestly, it comes off as a bit arrogant to appear in your own short. Others need work, Spadaccini, so stay behind the camera.
But to get back on track, Emo Boy, soured by his Pop’s fetish for African American foreplay and hopped up on goofballs, walks the streets of his hometown in a grumpy huff. He bumps into a woman on the street and doesn’t apologize. Gasp! He stabs an innocent teddy bear in a limp attempt at violence. Double gasp! Then, in what has to be one of the silliest displays of symbolism I’ve ever seen, he strolls past a set of traffic lights, both of which are flashing yellow. Get it? Caution? Eh? Sorry, but I never once felt sympathy for this whiny brat, who apparently is supposed to be this tragic figure of epic proportions. Everyone has problems, so why should Emo Boy be the poster child for the anti-suicide movement?
To cut to the case, the rest of the film sees Death knocking at Emo Boy’s door mere moments before he can slit his wrists. In a truly inexplicable and downright dumb turn, the Reaper gives the kid a magical pill that allows him to see what his life would be like “in a perfect world.” In this reality dad is not a degenerate but an upstanding, polo-wearing working man. Mom has ditched her slutty clothes and lollipop for a standard housewife uniform, and she’s even done the boy’s laundry! All of this sugary-sweet imagining ends up being a waste of time, however, because Emo Boy comes out of the fantasy he kills himself anyway. So what the heck is the lesson here? What is Spadaccini trying to say? I have no idea, and I don’t want an explanation. You only get one chance to clearly make a statement, and this material is cloudy beyond belief.
If you’d like to find out more about this film you can check it out at the Fleet Street Films website.