Sunday, June 13, 2021

Mark Romanek's disowned film Static (1986) Hippie Love Turbo Radio Show - Code Word "Spinach"

On this episode of Hippie Love Turbo, on KUCR 88.3 FM you heard a typical selection of garage rock bangers and far-out psych songs but on this post I'm going to focus on this week's obscure film recommendation, Static (1986).

The protagonist's collection of malformed crucifixes

I think what attracts me to this film is how its surreal nature leads you to believe that anything is possible, however, in a sort of strange way, the film is still somewhat grounded in reality. There are no floating spirits, time traveling, or demonic possessions and although the characters are bizarre and quirky, they don’t have any qualities which could be interpreted as being supernatural. I’ve seen others compare Static to a David Lynch’s work (such as Blue Velvet and TwinPeaks) due to its small-town America setting, melodramatic acting and general strangeness but absent is Lynch’s sinister overtones, sexual deviancy, or otherworldly events. 

Static's take on a small town cafe

Without spoiling too much of the plot, the film centers around an invention the protagonist (Ernie Blick) creates which he believes will dramatically change how people view religion and the afterlife. The audience isn’t made aware of what Ernie’s invention is at first so as he hypes it up to his fellow townies you are drawn into the excitement as well. Because Ernie seems a little off you can’t help but question whether or not he’s invented a cure for cancer or the next hot selling infomercial product.

A small group awaits the unveiling of Ernie's invention

Finding a decent copy of Static is fairly difficult. The first time I heard of the movie was when it was aired on Comet TV and I started watching when the film was already at the halfway point. Instead of watching the film with limited context, I looked it up on IMDB and told myself I’d find it streaming somewhere at a later date. From what I can tell the only way you can watch Static online are from old VHS/Laserdisc rips which are uploaded to various video sharing sites. The best quality version floating out in the universe in this present day appears to be the version which was broadcasted on television back in 2017 and with all the ads and possible edits/censorship it’s certainly not the most complete or preferred viewing experience. When I tried to find out why there is no Blueray or proper DVD release (the only official DVD release is supposedly of horrible quality), I found out that the director, Mark Romanek, isn’t too fond of his directorial debut and has said on The Reel World Matters that: 

 “For me it seemed premature. Like I had an opportunity to make a film before I felt I had much to say or knew what I was really doing as a filmmaker, so I just find it this sort of embarrassing bit of juvenilia.” 

Of course, it's just speculation but I assume that Romanek himself has no desire to approve of an official HD release and it's more than likely that there isn't really much of a demand for it anyhow. Romanek considers 2002’s One Hour Photo to be his first real film but his most well-known directorial works are probably his music videos which include: Nine Inch Nails' Closer, Michael and Janet Jackson's Scream, and Fiona Apple's Criminal

The movie is a quick watch and if you can handle watching a lo-fi copy of the film, I believe it's worth seeking out, especially if you are a fan of unusual low budget storytelling.

And if you are just here for the music, you can check out this week's playlist below:


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