A dog groomer in Hollywood aspires to be more than a dog groomer in Hollywood. Michael Pinkney is a man struggling with his lower-income lifestyle in the shadow of the film industry. His job is degrading, his home is infested with rats and his mind constantly wanders into a lo-fi dreamscape that mirrors his analog video experiments. Michael’s menial routine spirals out of control when he meets Cora, the girl of his dreams. On their first date his greatest hopes and worst fears are realized as they journey down a dark, twisted path that descends into surreal chaos. The boundaries between reality, fantasy, art, romantic-comedy and horror collide in an explosion of distorted video art and psychological insanity.
Let’s be real. Apart from this one weird, awesome cousin I have, no on in my extended family would have made it past the first fifteen minutes of this film. I barely did. I’m glad I did, but it was very touch and go for a while. The opening scene alone is probably enough to deter the common film watcher. My wife and son were watching some new animated princess movie in the living room and I was watching what looked like someone jerking off a cat—but like the whole cat as if it were a dick. I was definitely intrigued.
The film started streaming in the quality of an 80s VHS, like the one my mom plays of me as an infant crying and running around the living room couch. I switched from “auto” to “1080p” and the quality remained the same—a puzzling choice which is later explained through the character and makes sense in the long run, but as someone that likes my fancy pants screens and beyond HD quality, it was frustrating. The longer I watched, the less it mattered and the more I became captivated by the story, but it sat in the back the back of my lizard brain, annoying me ever so slightly.
If all that I have written right now sounds like a negative, you are absolutely correct. It is a (purposeful) hot mess; a mess of main characters, a mess of a plot, an absolutely brilliant score, and a mess of a somewhat autobiographical film that you can’t help but empathise with (can you empathise with a film?). The moment I realised that I had the same Ikea fruit bowl, I had to stop judging. I saw reflections of a life I lived long ago…I saw many situations that mirrored my own experiences; I had the same sink of dirty dishes, I had slugs where he had rats, I had the same unwashed bedding and a worse apartment in my student years, and I had similar anxieties and condescending Euro friends. Michael and I were resonating.
This is probably the most human film I’ve seen in a long while and not what I was expecting at all. It is a wild ride that is both intoxicating and visceral, personal and particular. Most won’t get it, many won’t watch it, and they will all miss out on a conversation about duck tits. This is one of those rare films where the director throws caution to the wind and just makes something personal, powerful, and outright peculiar. It is part fever dream, part acid trip, and part bad memory—all blended together on a VHS.
You can tell that writer/actor/director Michael Reich spent years in the dog grooming industry, made clear by the industry knowledge and the disdain discussions thereof. More than that though, it is the music video director that comes to the forefront of the film, largely through the unique stylisation. Reich spent years documenting the underground punk scene and directing music videos for My Chemical Romance, The Shins, Bad Religion and Ryan Adams. This film is a window into the world of a younger Michael Reich—one obsessed with a very niche style of video art, a passion for film, a poor sense of self-worth, and a desire to see Carrie but as a cat.
This is one of those films that I absolutely loved but honestly wouldn’t recommend to most folks I know…perhaps some of my arty friends that smoke too much weed. And that’s OK. I’m just grateful to have had the opportunity to see it. It’s more a work of art than it is a regular film and since art is subjective, it was a solid four stars for me but those ratings are going to be all over the place. Thanks for reading and as always, stay sordid. Trailer and poster below.
Site founder. Horror enthusiast. Metalhead.