Description (from the filmmaker):
The movie is about mental health and addictions. I work as a nurse in these fields and decided to do a movie that was about mental health. We see a character that has schizophrenia who stops taking his medication. Over the course of a week he goes downhill and becomes quite delusional thinking many people including the CIA are out to get him.
Fez McLeod as Johnathan Ramsay, Steve Robert as Steve Ramsay, Maria Fernandez as Zoe Springer, Josh Damman as Draven, Mike the Gardner as CIA Agent #1
None (Online Screener)
Written and Directed by Fez McLeod
Right from the get-go, GOING CRAZY struck me as “odd.” Which is to be expected with a movie that is about someone, well, going crazy… but it was odd in a lot of ways. The film opens with some advertising – books written by McLeod that you can buy to help support his further filmmaking forays – which struck me as really weird at first (I had never seen anything like that on any of the who-knows-how-many movies I’ve reviewed here), but then as I thought about it more I guess it’s not that much different from the previews that are before every regular movie I watch. Next, there is a disclaimer that reads: “The following movie is a very accurate portrayal of a mental patient who stops taking his medication. If you are easily offended by violence, bad language, sexual situations and blatant references to racism please do not continue viewing this presentation.” This warning reminded me of the types of things you’d see before schlocky, gory, horror movies warning the “feint of heart” to spare themselves the horror that will soon be splashed across the scene, but GC is not a horror film. Odd. And finally: the opening credits, which feature pictures of the actors. This is not completely unheard of, but usually it’s stylized in some way (see the opening from DUST UP – review here – for an example of what I mean), and in GC it’s just a frame grab with faded edges. Seriously: odd.
Anyway, once I got over the initial weirdness of the opening (which I know I’ve spent a lot of time on here but it was really ODD), the film got going. GC’s plot is about as weird as its opening: Steve’s Mom has gone missing somehow, and he has to leave his brother Johnathan home alone to go and search for her; which wouldn’t be a big deal except for the fact that Johnathan was just recently released from an institution for some sort of unnamed mental health issues. Also, if I understood it right, Steve’s Mom is not Johnathan’s. All caught up? So Steve takes off and Johnathan is left behind with instructions of “take you medicine, and no booze or drugs.” Of course, we know that this would be a pretty boring movie if those instructions were followed, so the very first morning Johnathan dumps all his pills down the drain, and shortly thereafter buys some beer, followed pretty quickly by calling “Mr. Marijuana” over for a visit. Not surprisingly, things start to go downhill for Johnathan. First he is being watched by a man in a green car, then a guy shows up to cut his lawn and kick the shit out of Johnathan, followed by salvation from a little person, and THEN it starts to get weird!
Pretty quickly into the film, it seemed that the “very accurate portrayal” described in the beginning was, well, clichéd at best. Now, I am not a medical professional, and do not claim to be. I have had some experience with seeing how schizophrenia affects a person first hand, but as it was my friend and not myself, I don’t claim to be an expert. I guess my issue with the crazy in GC is that it all seemed so, well, average-movie-crazy. Sure, paranoia is common in this type of situation, and many schizophrenics have a “big brother” type complex, so the CIA was not really out of bounds. But the little person coming to save the day? I immediately thought of Tito, the little person in LIVING IN OBLIVION, who spells it out: “The only place I’ve seen dwarves in dreams is in stupid movies like this! Oh make it weird, put a dwarf in it! Everyone will go: Woah, this must be a fuckin’ dream, there’s a fuckin’ dwarf in it!” Now I know were talking hallucination, not dream, but other than the fact that you are awake, what’s the big difference? And then: the tinfoil… the tinfoil hat, tinfoil suit? Oh and we’ve got to throw a scary clown in there. These are all things I’ve seen in so many “going crazy” movies, that it makes that claim seem dubious. In addition, the rest of the warning also seemed a bit pandering. The only real violence is a few mostly off-screen beatings that do not result in even a bruise, the only sexual situation is some not-graphic simulated fellatio, and the racism: the racism is a couple of “opinions” on race spouted by Johnathan that seemed really out of place and completely unimportant to the plot other than trying to add some controversy. There is not ever any interactions with anyone of another race, except for a “doctor” in Johnathan’s head that says he is an Orthodox Jew, so the whole racism angle seems tacked on for a few extra jabs in the rib in an otherwise not very controversial film (other than the overall subject matter of the plot).
On the technical side, the video quality was ok at best. The shots were decently composed, but were very utilitarian; there was never a shot that made me think “oh, that’s cool,” but there also weren’t a bunch of cut off heads and out of focus blurs, so that was good. The focus was very flat in the film; it appeared that it was shot with auto focus, so there was no depth to the picture. The lighting was good overall, which is bolstered by the fact that a lot of the film takes place outside. The sound quality varied; the score was decent and in most cases (except for one scene that inexplicably had heavy metal while the rest of GC has a more orchestral sound) was very fitting to the action. I wondered if it is original music or stock, and the closing credits only listed the actors, no crew, so I have no idea. The quality of the dialogue recording was lacking; in some scenes it was pretty good but in many others it was much harder to hear because of interference from wind or other detractors. Sound, as I found myself on my film, is one of the hardest things to get right in a microbudgeted feature, and is definitely an area that it pays to spend some extra budget towards.
One of the bigger issues that bugged me on GC was the editing, both the actual editing style and also the layout of the scenes. On the actual editing itself, I have to say: fade fade fadey fade. Every single scene ends with a fade to black and a fade back in on the next one. This gets old. Quick. Like, the fifth note I wrote down in my notebook quick. There needs to be some deviation in the editing, otherwise it really seems very amateurish. At least some cuts, some wipes, some something other than just fade to black needs to be in there. The bigger problem I had with the editing was the fact that it felt like a lot of scenes, and I mean a lot, were missing shots. There were just bits that should be there that weren’t. An example: Johnathan sees a dog get run over and offers to the owner to chase down the guy that did it, and that sequence of events happens in three shots. Johnathan offers and runs off-screen, one shot of Johnathan running past a brick wall, and then inexplicably Johnathan has somehow chased down a car and has the driver laid out on the ground, beating him. At first I thought maybe these missing bits were a purposeful effect to show the disjointedness of Johnathan’s thought process, but then the same sort of issues occur in scenes with Steve and his girlfriend looking for Mom far away. Then I just felt like there was missing shots, pickups and establishing bits, that were just never completed that needed to be in there to really make the scenes go smooth. Also with the layout of the film, there were quite a few small scenes here and there that did not move the story along at all, and really seemed to just take up space and time.
Now please don’t get me wrong, GC was not all bad, not by far. For a first feature film, it does a lot better than a lot of films I’ve reviewed on here, some by people that have been making movies for years. It is an interesting story with some good humor and some good dark places mixed together, and overall the acting quality is very high for a “your friends and neighbors” type of cast. McLeod himself as Johnathan has the acting chops to carry the film, which is always a concern for me when I see a microbudgeted movie that is written by, directed by, and starring the same person. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t, and in Fez’ case, it works. The rest of the supporting cast was varying levels of decent; Steve, the CIA agent, and Draven were all strong characters and performed well, some of the more subordinate characters (like the social workers and doctors) were a bit weaker, but even so they were better than the supporting characters in a lot of the stuff I have reviewed.
Overall, I think GC was a good first try with lots of room for improvement. There are some details that really need to be paid better attention to (for example, spelling your titles right… as an English major it bugs me to see “begining” instead of “beginning” on screen!), and there are some technical aspects that McLeod can focus on to make his next movie better. As a filmmaker, if you are going to warn the audience about how hardcore your movie is, it had better be hardcore, especially in these days of extreme horror and whatnot, so I really felt that the disclaimer in the beginning sent me down the wrong path right away, and GC could be a stronger film without it. As a first film however, McLeod has done a lot better with GC than a lot of other films I’ve seen from much more seasoned filmmakers, and I really look forward to seeing how he will improve with more experience.
Overall 5 / 10
GC is not on the IMDb
GC for sale: http://www.cheekydogproductions.com/buy-dvd.html
GC site: http://www.cheekydogproductions.com