Do you ever feel like a decision you made 10 years ago still has the capacity to linger in your psyche?...
...Do you also happen to live on a cult-like farm, owned by a dude who dresses like a mob boss from an Asian action movie, who moves suspiciously stable around the land using a cane? If you add in a need for revenge on a former band who stole your ideas and ran with it, then you might just be Roger, the main character in The Transcendents.
Writer/director Derek Ahonen’s The Transcendents immediately begins with a giant slap in the roughly-bearded face of Lynch-ian vibes. Almost purposefully low-quality resolution, desolate landscapes, and corny dialogue kick us into the plot immediately. Roger (Rob Franco) is a guy, living on a farm of sorts, and is shown something on a laptop by the grossly over-dressed farm owner, George (William Leroy), and promptly begins his journey, ending up at a shitty, run down bar. Owned by Jan (Kathy Valentine), a major lush with super heavy mascara, we’re introduced to Roger’s task at hand: he’s looking for a band called The Transcendents and he’s not happy with them. With knowledge they played at this bar a while back, Roger is trying to get info from Jan on their whereabouts, claiming authorship of all of their songs. The decently-found fame the band encountered definitely didn’t involve Roger. But they seem to have disappeared. At this point, Roger delves into the details, 10 years earlier.
At the first flashback, The Transcendents absolutely drips with Lynch-ian dialogue, odd characters, and Tarantino-esque anachronistic quick cuts, using arbitrary amounts of time in a rather humorous fashion (ex: “10,735 hours later”). We’re introduced to the founding members of The Transcendents (the band, which is also the name of the movie), Kim (Savannah Welch) and Foster (Ben Reno), a couple who’s down on their luck and doing their best to start a band. Lacking in the songwriting aspect, Foster happens to run into Roger performing outside a church – described in past tense, we only see Roger entering the house – and is so enthralled by his music, he immediately invites him over to get a feel if he’s the right choice. Upon entering and meeting Kim, we learn a couple things about Roger and we learn them very quickly:
With how quickly Roger admits the first bullet point, along with his odd, stoic personality, even more bizarre layers are added on to an already convoluted plot. We see the plot progress, the band pen some great tunes, though we never actually hear them play any music, which is a pretty interesting element, considering the movie is literally about a band.
The score and cinematography have an old school Western vibe, the setting in some rural area of possibly Canada or the US Midwest. Flash-forwards and flash-backs happen quickly and often, making it a little hard to keep up with, but I found it quite an enjoyable challenge, as there aren’t too many side characters to get mixed up with. As the plot carries on, we see the band member’s relationships grow and deteriorate, with Roger and Kim starting a relationship, and Foster frustrated, stuck paying all the bills. Jumping to the present tense – Roger trying to find his former band members – Jan takes it upon herself to be part-skank, part-aide in Roger’s quest. Her post-car crash paraplegic sister, Cassie, having a strange connection with Roger… who was also in a car crash (FORESHADOWING?!?!?).
Much of The Transcendents seems to change tone as the story advances. The Lynch-ian vibes slowly wearing down, though never fully receding, into a nearly straight-forward character study of the band members, and how they ended up where they are now. Fortunately, this brings out the major highlight of the movie: the acting.
After learning (present tense) of Kim’s unfortunate fall into the world of drugs, Roger and the gang try and track her down, leading them to (another) shitty bar; Copperhead. Complete with a maniacal iguana-clad bar owner, sporting enough cheesy dialogue to deplete the cellular structure of most coniferous trees, Roger gives him a look and the tone changes drastically. His only appearance in the movie, Paul Sevigny completely transforms from the bizarre, to this honest, troubled dude and it is fantastic.
Even more impressive is when the gang finally meets with Kim, in less than optimal shape. Savannah Welch’s portrayal of Kim in one scene, almost a complete monologue, is absolutely incredible. She is genuine. She’s clearly, as an actress, undergone some very traumatic situations (seriously; look her up), and that raw, candid, wonderfully human emotion is in the spotlight. Bravo.
One overwhelming and unfortunate negative, however, is at the tail end of the film, when characters are reunited at the barn owned by George (William Leroy). In a comedy, the fast-talking, mob boss-like character could’ve done just fine, but the tone of the film at this point is very serious and very genuine. Sticking in this odd character detracted from it significantly, and being graced by such great performances (mentioned earlier), it was tough to take in. Fortunately, it was short.
While calling The Transcendents a ‘thriller’ or ‘horror’ movie is a bit of a stretch and the writer definitely doesn’t cast a very wide net, those who are caught hold of will surely be taken hold of the bleak tone, wonderful acting, and heartwarming oddities of this Lynch-ian flick. Both actors, writer (Derek Ahonen), and composer (Francesco Marcocci) are all people to keep an eye on, for drama and horror fans alike.
The Transcendants is now in select theaters, and will later release on DVD/Digital July 21st from Indican Pictures.
By Zach Gorecki