Vernon, Florida (1981) Poster

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I still live in vernon
shipes_j3 October 2006
well near it.....I remember seeing errol morris one autumn afternoon as he stood in the street with tripod and camera back in 1981....I had just gotten off from work at the elementary school (where I still teach)....its hard to remember how different things were then...because the physical side of vernon is still the same....although this is going to change soon....the widening of the main street is going to literally wipe out the town as we know it.

the jury is still out on the purpose of morris' film....most of the town folk look at it today as a mockery....however some who were in it thought differently then (movie stars)....I watched it recently (again) and took it at face was funny....however knowing vernon like I do...I must say that in my days at vernon high school...I remember variety in the culture....all were not rednecks or eccentrics...

morris just let the cameras roll....if there were any genius in the was in the these characters were patched together to create this look at a seedy, unique town.

to me the "condescending" (as some of the critics have declared) part is summed up in the music (if you can call it music) at the very beginning...this sets the tone for the entire picture....on the other hand...the genuine honesty and realism in the turkey hunter's interview is just that...the reason I know that.... he is my cousin...I have known him all of my life...that attention to details is the way he tells stories...I have heard countless ones through the years.
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One of the best documentaries I've ever seen
skipsizemore3 November 1998
Vernon, Florida consists entirely of the stories and opinions of the residents of a sleepy little southern town, without narration or comments from the filmmakers. Many of the residents are eccentric, and some, perhaps, are a bit nervous to be in front of the camera. But the filmmakers wisely chose to allow the residents to say whatever they felt was important, so that the end result, though sometimes comical, is actually quite respectful and dignified. The editing is fabulous-- no abrupt starts or stops, nothing boring, and nothing that appears to be taken out of context.

Vernon, Florida is hard to find, so if you see a copy, by all means check it out.

This is the way documentaries should be made!
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A little too close to home...
Angie Cook26 August 2001
I'm from Marianna, Florida, which is about 20 minutes from Vernon. Take that for what it's worth, but this film reminds me of both why I left and why I sometimes long to return.

Errol Morris finds some of the most beautiful freaks ever committed to film. Any fan of the documentary film medium is doing themselves a disservice by not viewing this film a number of times.

I regard "Vernon, Florida" as up there with what is in my opinion Errol's best work -- "Gates of Heaven", "The Thin Blue Line," and "A Brief History of Time."

"'I like the idea of making films about ostensibly nothing,' Morris told The New Yorker's Mark Singer. 'That's what all my movies are about. That and the idea that we're in a position of certainty, truth, infallible knowledge, when actually we're just a bunch of apes running around.'"

That's what I enjoy about Errol's films -- grabbing hold of just about any bit of chaos in the universe, and being able to find and appreciating the beauty and wonder that it holds.
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another Morris treat
soontobewriter3 October 2006
I am grateful to Werner Herzog for convincing Errol Morris to become a filmmaker. "Vernon, Florida" is an intriguing look at the inhabitants of a small town with a beautiful setting in the southern United States. Like most of his films, if not all, Morris remains completely aloof, and instead allows his subjects to speak for themselves. One can easily mock the old, toothless men and the man who just loves "gobblers" (turkeys) but that would be too easy. There is something poignant about the way the people of this small town attempt to express their feelings, as if in many cases, they do not have the vocabulary to articulate their ideas. However, underlying their simple way of life is something that touches humanity. They love their lives and live them day to day without a care in the world. A friend of mine said that these guys are actually a lot smarter than we think because they know something better than probably anyone else around, even if it is cultivating worms. I think perhaps they know a lot more than we think about what it is to be human; they are earnest and humble. I watched this film three times and after each viewing I came to have a deeper appreciation for every one of them. Errol Morris is perhaps the best documentary filmmaker around today and this film was a little treat. A must see for all.
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My home town.
hvolleynut3325 July 2007
I think it is so funny that the small town from which I grew up has its very own DVD. The funny thing is the people are really like that in Vernon. I know Snake and Henry and they are some of the best people you will ever meet. The thing that was very amusing is they only showed talked with people who are kind of "out there" so to speak. But I think the movie is great. It reminds me of all the great times that I had in that town.You cherish times and places in life and Vernon is truly a place thats one of a kind. My parents still live there and own a Farm Supply Store in which they bring in a lot of customers from surrounding areas. Thanks to the producer and his team for making the movie.
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Complex & Wonderful Documentary From Errol Morris
David15 September 2003
I first saw VERNON Florida about 10 years ago, while living in a small town in the mountains of Western North Carolina, and it hit really close to home. The film at first almost seems condescending - quirky small-town Southerners are an unfortunately easy target for artistes, and stereotypes are so, so tiresome. But Morris has real affection for his subjects - they never seem undignified, and basic human emotions (like the turkey hunter's rampaging enthusiasm, and his eloquent descriptions of his emotional reaction while on a hunt) do really shine through here. And in small towns, a certain home-grown individuality CAN fluorish, and this film underscores that in great fashion, and for all of the quirk seen here, Morris (or his subjects) really also get close to some sort of swamp-bred Zen, graceful and succinct. Morris' style and pacing reminds me a little of Herzog, or maybe Ozu, where a still and unmoving camera perfectly captures the dignity and charm of his subjects, while preserving all of their quirks. Overall, this very accomplished documentary is surprising and well worth a look.
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Truth IS Stranger Than Fiction
csmith17916 June 2003
This documentary of a Smalltown, USA in rural Florida is a one-of-a-kind true comedy. Morris' choosing of the particular characters recorded and the events chronicled are genius. A quirky preacher who shares with us and his congregation his logic on semantics; a hunter who "specializes" in turkey gobblers; and an elderly man who likes to catch and keep wild critters all add to the deliciously funny charm of this documentary of rural life. His style of letting the characters speak for themselves is truly a work of art in this film. Watching "Vernon, Florida" is the equivalent of reading the "Foxfire" journals with a similar dose of the arcane knowledge that only rural, American, small-town residents possess. Definitely worth watching more than once.
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The best documentary ever.
craiggae29 August 1999
Vernon, Florida is far and away the most creative documentary i have ever seen. Errol Morris manages to let the people do the talking and doesn't get involved at all, so what you see is what you get, no silly people asking questions or prying for details. where else can you see a preacher do a 10 minute sermon on the word "therefore"? only one place, Vernon,FL. This film is getting more and more difficult to find, if anyone out there knows how I can obtain a copy of this classic, please write me at
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Morris captures the absurd, and shows that it exists in all of us
cdrake99922 January 2000
You may get the feeling that you are watching some sort of bizarre freak show while you are watching Vernon, Fla. Morris uses his unique style of interviewing to get his subjects to wax philosophic on a wide variety of subjects, exposing both their strange senses of reality and their humanity at once. All of the people examined in the film have somehow created rich, meaningful worlds from their otherwise depressing existences in this tiny Florida town. The film is hilarious most of the time, with one bizarre story after another, but somehow the viewer emerges from it feeling "there but for the grace of God go I".
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Fresh and innovative documentary
pegina7 January 2000
Everyone knows Errol Morris from The Thin Blue Line and A Brief History of Time but Vernon, Florida really is his most raw and most intriguing film. He lets the viewer get a real complete view of his interviewees and it's just fabulous.
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Funniest documentary of all time!!!!
meryles9 December 2002
Geez, this movie is GREAT. i laughed so hard i turned red and then purple and very nearly blue. The people Mr. Morris documents are fabulously fascinating and overwhelmingly odd. There IS nothing that compares. I can barely even write about it, because it not only has to be watched, it has to be recounted to your friends in funny voices and fake accents, and then watched again and again. Vernon FL is apparently filled with eccentric scientific principles reminiscent of the 15th century, and impressive grammar that the best stand-up comedian in the world couldn't compete with, because it is all genuine, all of it. I just cannot stress enough how much you need to see this film. Even if you have no sense of humor, you will at least appreciate the character studies and the overwhelming irony of The Human Condition (and so forth, and so on, etc etc).
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Without question, a terrific, funny documentary.
richard-7642 February 2005
Errol Morris went to Vernon, Fla because it had a reputation for excessive insurance claims due to missing limbs. Known as "Stump City," Vernon turned out to be much more--a place seemingly filled with odd characters. Morris spent a year there, gaining the locals' confidence and doing interviews that are priceless. I can't recommend this too much. I was passing through Florida three years ago and saw a turnoff to Vernon. I went there anticipating the same characters would be hanging out at the gas station watching someone change a tire...then I realized that it was filmed 20 years earlier, and most may have passed away. I shot photos and went on my way. Trust me, Vernon, Florida is a classic.
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My Home...
honkytonkchevy17 July 2003
Wow, I viewed this film for the first time last night and I felt like I was sitting in my favorite local bar. Watching it, I could almost smell the mosquito spray that was shown in the opening scene and taste that invasive red dirt. I think I even saw ol' Uncle Pete somewhere in the background.
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Creepily eccentric at times, quietly poignant at others equals excellence
irvingc11 July 2003
I was fortunate when it came to viewing Vernon, Florida. It's a very small world in Hollywood and outside of that circle it seems you're lucky to know anybody. In documentary film-making I'd imagine that world shrinks even further with the film maker's and assistants spread out few and far between. While studying film production in West Palm, Florida I was lucky enough to have a teach who was a former student of Errol Morris. My opinion must have been in favor of thumbs up for Vernon - simply because our class was given more insight. An average viewer might shrug and scoff "Vernon" for being just an hour or so worth of candid interviews with crazy local yocals who have such a distorted view of reality their opinions just seem ludicrous. With a small introduction by Morris himself and highlights of Vernon by our teacher Mike -- the experience was more nostalgic, like watching embarrassing home movies of people you know. There's more behind "Vernon" then I think people realize, And much more explicitness to the likings of Snake the turkey hunter and others. The real crime here is that almost no one will ever know about it. The subtext sort of hangs in limbo because there's no narration and only so much we can learn about these people that they're not willing to reveal on their own. Still, this is the early work of a master docu film maker. It's the earliest example of how Morris' favorite angle for the depiction of society is through the wormhole everyone seems to hide the dark side. Something he explained with almost shocking tenacity in Mr. Death - perhaps his best work. Vernon, Florida is a freakfest, a splash of cold water that reality doesn't look the way you think it does. It's flat and unblinkingly straightforward and best of all... like it's characters, it doesn't seem to care in making much of a point, which ironically is the point itself.
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One of his two best
aojaok2 June 2004
That last reviewer doesn't know anything about quality cinematic expression.

Gates of Heaven and Vernon, FL are the two greats by Errol Morris - and ironically enough, they're his first two. I was hoping for that magic when I hyped up Mr. Morris to a date I took to see Mr. Death, but that wasn't near the greatness of of Gates or Vernon - though it was still very good. Vernon, FL, as well as Gates, are cult classics now and rightfully so. He captures moments and extracts such personal and hidden traits from each character in a way I've never ever seen another documentary filmmaker been able to do. Buy this movie now - it'll blow you away. 9/10
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I really liked this documentary.
ross.a.hooge13 March 2000
This is a truly wonderful and entertaining documentary. I only wish it were longer. 60 minutes was not enough. Although some may feel that this film makes fun of the rural Florida senior citizens, I found it charming. It reminded me of my grandparents' stories of rural Minnesota and North Dakota. The turkey hunter is especially good. I only wish I had such a passsion for a hobby.
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It's Not 'Camp;' It's Just Boring
ccthemovieman-112 June 2007
Yes, I know this is a dry, sarcastic humor and usually I enjoy that sort of thing. However, this is really more of just an elitist filmmaker nastily poking fun at some backwoods-type people, making them look as stupid as he can up in his high-and-mighty perch as a supposedly intelligent maker of film. That's the way I looked at Errol Morris's documentary here. In truth, this is probably the worst of his films and I've seen most of them. They usually are very slanted with his obvious biases, but they're interesting, albeit many times condescending. This one was just plain boring.

I mean, how long can you sit there and watch some hillbilly talk for 20 straight minutes about turkey hunting? That's entertainment? Even if you think the guy is so dumb or absurd you might laugh at him in the beginning, after a short time it's just boring. It goes on and on and on.

I guess some label this as "camp," but the latter has to have some entertainment value. Listening to someone drone on and on about a boring topic is only good for one thing: putting the viewer to sleep.
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New favorite documentary
enjolras149 February 2006
This is the genuine reality TV: old Floridian men telling you how it is in 1981. The ultra-slow pacing of this film, the incredible humor -- but also the respect and very American pride -- have made it my new favorite film. I only own 20 movies, but this will be one of them, because it's a treasure. I am quoting this movie more than Napoleon Dynamite, and I'm just sorry that there aren't more folks around who've seen it to pick up on the jokes. Fans of the Mockumentary wave will immediately recognize that all the great mockumentary makers MUST have seen this movie. Ultimately it shows a compassionate portrait of how funny and beautiful reality really is.
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billcody2 April 2002
Reading some of the comments that have been posted for this film really make me sad. They remind me of the time a friend of mine and I went to see a Bunuel double bill at the Nuart theater here in LA back in the early eighties. The first film was Bunuel's poignant documentary Los Hurdes about poor mountain people. The audience was laughing heartily at the plight of these people despite Bunuel's obvious sensitivity, while my friend and I were reduced to tears. (Bunuel was a big fan of Flaherty's seminal documentaries and the influence was obvious in that particular film.) After the intermission, L'Age d'Or screened to almost complete silence except for the uncontrollable howls coming from where my friend and I were sitting. We were p-ing our pants - that film is so funny.

What does that have to do with Vernon, Florida? If you can not see the obvious affection that Errol Morris has for his subjects in this film - that is on you - not Morris. As far as the poster who thought that this film didn't have a theme - well, it doesn't. It is a documentary! I'm guessing Nanook of the North would be a failure as well - because Flaherty didn't impose a world view on his subject. He just showed us Nanook's life as it was. In Vernon, Florida Morris allows us to become a part of this small southern town by letting us into the lives of the people who live there. And in doing so, he also reveals the hidden wonders that lay beneath the surface of a place that most of us would never visit.

I know everyone seems to think that documentaries should have themes. I'm guessing they get this from listening too closely to small minded teachers in high school or something. But, a documentary that imposes it's will on the subject matter isn't a documentary - it is a scripted film. It is also dishonest and a cheat.

Errol Morris is a great film maker because he like Les Blank and others - let their subjects tell the story and expose the wonder of the world instead of distorting it and making it false.

God Bless Errol Morris!
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Where strangers in a strange town meet some people who might seem strange, at first.
Roger Burke31 May 2007
How many times have you driven through a small town and briefly caught the looks of the locals as you drove by, perhaps thinking about their lives – seemingly static – just as they were probably thinking about yours – moving too fast, perhaps?

This is a film where Errol Morris lets you get out of your auto, so to speak, just to find out what those locals are indeed thinking about. It could be Any Town, Any State, Any Country but, for reasons unknown to me, Morris chose to get out at Vernon, Florida which, according to my Google maps, is about thirty miles due north of Panama City, just south of I10 – for those who like to know where they are all the time...

Nobody, however, does documentaries quiet like Morris: stop the car, set up the camera, ask one of the local locals to talk, roll sound, roll camera, action – and say nothing to distract the viewer from what is being said. That's about as close to actual cinema verite as you're ever likely to get. That's Morris's trademark technique, which is its strength as well as its weakness – in a sense.

Its strength because, as the viewer, you gain a totally uninterrupted (except for necessary editing) slice of humanity, uncluttered by any considerations other than to let that person talk. And, talk they do, providing a near voyeuristic insight into the rural mentality and psychology of part of America's deep south – something you'd never get, probably, if you'd just stopped off there one day to get directions to I10, or somewhere else. Often, some locals don't like to talk to foreigners, do they now? Well, here's your chance...

Its weakness because Morris has obviously made a choice about who to put on film; he didn't simply set up the camera and then wait for people to sidle up to say their piece and then exit stage left. No – the locals he did choose (maybe they chose him also?) had something interesting to say, and they all said it well. To that extent, they all became 'actors', but no more than we are all actors in the story of our own life. The core of their beliefs shine through, however, from the guy who hunts wild turkey, to the pastor who provides a semantic dissertation on the word 'therefore', to the old man who keeps wild animals in his pen, and to the local cop who sits, most days, in his patrol car, waiting, waiting and waiting...

The camera work is, as indicated, composed of many long, static takes for each interviewee; in all, there are six or seven characters, most of whom appear as individuals. Once, however, Morris has three old men discussing the bizarre facts about a suicide by a fourth person, and quietly arguing about the exact method the deceased used. Such candor is rarely seen or heard. The turkey hunter has the most screen time, perhaps because he is the most articulate, has fascinating details about turkey shoots and allows us to hear, at length, the languid silence of the Florida wetlands. The final scene, where Morris uses the only moving frame in the film, has that hunter watching the buzzards nest in the trees for the night, as the sun goes down – and wishing they were turkeys. City dwellers: eat your heart out...

Truth is always better than fiction, and definitely stranger. You'll certainly laugh, you'll maybe cringe a bit, you'll smile often, and you might even feel sorry for some of these people who are, in the final analysis, no less than we are. And, no more.

Highly recommended for all.
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on its own low-key/aimless level it's exceptional, but still low-key and aimless all the same
MisterWhiplash29 May 2007
It's strange to see an Errol Morris film that works and doesn't work all the same. The film is short, maybe too short, and doesn't really take much time to going into much of what the town of Vernon is about, or if these interviewed are its only residents. There's no unifying theme though to the work, which is the basic problem, as Morris at his best (Thin Blue Line with the stylization and depth of reasonable doubt in true crime; Gates of Heaven with loss of life as a means to understand what human nature is all about; Fog of War about knowing limitations and understanding mistakes made in history; Fast Cheap & Out of Control with the process and joys of a job well done), as it's simply a series of interviews with the residents. Maybe, as one person here pointed out, it's that everyone has a story. But, not to be modest, you sometimes can't understand what these people are saying anyway in their storytelling.

But at the same time, as Morris just goes about with his very unobtrusive and expert eye for human detail (the detail, anyway, of people at their goofiest and more sincere), it's very funny to see these backwoods folk and old guys tell their everyday stories and tales of hunting turkey and other animals. Favorite scenes would include: the preacher, who is part-time a laborer and part-time an obsessive word nut, specifically the word 'therefore' as it appears in the bible and what it means; the guy with his pet tortoise, who he tries to get to move around by gentle kicks, and also with his wild possum; the simple coot who's got one tooth and plenty of pictures of possible life elsewhere with clouds and stars in the sky. Morris doesn't shy away from these idiosyncrasies that one can find right away in the not-quite-Deliverance parts of the deep south, and watching the film with an audience is an added treat, to see who may laugh at who doing what.

At the end, there aren't really any big ideas to take away from the film, at least on a first viewing, and it may be a little repetitive for some- or maybe not, as it may hit so close to home that it's a likely candidate for best documentary about a town with population 40. It's a little quirk of a doc-comedy that's worth it for Morris fans, but far from being any kind of masterpiece.
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postcard from Sunny Florida
Errol Morris' 1981 brief documentary "Vernon, Florida" feels like the promotional film Disney never wanted the world to see. It offers an alternative look at the small nook and cranny towns that lurk between the few major cities that Florida houses. As with many of Morris' other work the main drive here is to tell the stories of the real life human characters. In this case, it's just under an hour's worth of backwoods stories told beneath a series of thick Southern accents ranging from the how-to guide on properly hunting turkeys to a lonely cop musing on the local criminal activity to a preacher's dissection of the dictionary. It's enduring and irritating, as well as eye-opening and mind-numbing. The film offers a unique glimpse into the human psyche that is possibly one of the most unlikely places to find comedy. This trip to Florida's panhandle is well worth the gas money.
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Surprisingly Entertaining
Crap_Connoisseur14 February 2006
This is a surprise, a documentary about weird, old people in Florida that manages to be both amusing and insightful. The film is very simply a collection of anecdotes from Vernon's eccentric elderly residents about their hobbies and in the case of the bored policeman, his job.

Errol Morris, surely one of the best documentary filmmakers of recent times, wisely chooses to let his subjects do the talking. There is no Michael Moore grandstanding and no pompous voice-over. The result is refreshing as it allows the viewer to come to their own conclusion about the interviewees without having someone's personal agenda shoved down your throat. Personally, I think these old coots are awesome. They have all found different ways to bring happiness and meaning to their twilight years, whether it be shooting turkeys, farming worms or looking after stray animals. While the gobbler hunter provides most of the laughs with his amazing anecdotes and wall of turkey feet, the highlight for me was the priest and his sermon.

Vernon, Florida is a beautifully filmed documentary that stands up incredibly well 25 years after it was made. This is highly recommended.
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Great Documentary
sakulin15 July 2003
I loved this movie. Living in Alabama I have visited many small towns just like Vernon. Heck, I know people like this where I live now. They are wonderfully entertaining. Some reviewers complain that it is cruel and pokes fun at southerners, old people, and the uneducated. Nonsense. We southerners love this stuff. This is real life Mayberry, one of the most enduring of all TV shows, which also parodies small town southern life - and we love it. Morris is magnificent. Incidentally, I will be in Vernon in October.
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Gophers (he's not crazy)
go-nico2 January 2003
Even those of us who don't stereotype the people interviewed in this film as as "white trash," and even those viewers who see a bit of themselves in those interviewed, can get a good laugh out of the film, often at the expense of those being interviewed. For instance -- many people laugh at the animal-keeper who calls a turtle a gopher. The joke is on us -- it is a gopher, a gopher turtle. As he says, they make their homes in sandy areas, underground. It's sandy land for him.
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