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"Static" is such an awesome movie, but has seemed to of faded away into obscurity. Director Mark Romanek, has also directed the "Nine Inch Nails" music video, "closer" and more recently "One Hour Photo". Keith Gordon of "Christine" and Amanda Plummer of "Pulp Fiction" give good performances. Also, the film has some (as they'd say in the 80's) totally awesome new wave music. I wish I could find the soundtrack. The story concerns Ernie Blick (Keith Gordon) a small town inventor who works at a crucifix factory. He has created a machine in which he believes can show people images of heaven. His long time friend Julia (Amanda Plummer) who plays keyboard in a new wake rock band, is in town for the Christmas holiday. Poor Ernie wants to see his dead parents in heaven. Probably because his mom and dad were much less annoying than his uncle, who's a fanatical religion crazed street preacher. Ernie is convinced his machine works, because he can see the images of heaven. When he gathers people around to see his invention, all that comes up on the screen is static. Ernie becomes frustrated, because people think he's insane. The film is simply amazing and unpredictable. Not to mention, it has a diner shaped like a fish. Actor Keith Gordon went on to direct the late 80's dark satirical teen melodrama "the Chocolate War". I highly recommend both films. Now if only they'd release both these movies on DVD.
Nowadays it seems indie festivals are the chic thing and filmmakers are
trying too hard to get the status that winners of those "prestige"
events get. If they would only look back to 1985 to a film like Static,
they could learn a thing or two.
This film paces itself, and while never snappy, it uses its time wisely. While a melancholy mood prevales, we still are affected in many ways by the different characters we are introduced to.
The story is quite simple: A young man, not quite over the death of his parents, uses his skills as an inventor to come up with a device that may or may not monitor images of heaven. Through the interaction of several eccentric yet not exaggerated characters, they (and we) learn lessons about hope, desperation, and acceptance.
The film's use of desert landscape adds a lot to the feeling of loneliness (instead of film economics), the careful selection of songs for the soundtrack actually ties in with each scene--from songs by The The to Elvis! Keith Gordon obviously had a hand in that part, as with his choice of songs for his next film The Chocolate War. Goes to show you don't have to look for trendiness or a hit soundtrack to sell, which can date a film and make it lose its power over the years. Static was made in 1985 and hasn't lost an ounce of effectiveness.
There are so many little nuances that will have you hooked, from Ernie's collection of defective crucifixes to Ernie asking Julia why she kissed him: "'Cause you're a strange boy ...I wish I was more like you," it's brilliant. I've seen this film many times and it still has the power to hit me emotionally without fail every single time. I always have a really good cry when I see Amanda Plummer's last smile as she's driving.
Admittedly, films are a form of escapism and all don't have to be made exclusively for intellectual reasons, but when you want a story to touch you without trying to impress you with flavor-of-the-month stars and no "serious" documentary all ready to go for air on the Bravo network, this is the film to seek out. Static is a flawless example of what an independent film is all about.
After all these years, this is the one film that I cherish most and everyone I've suggested it to has admitted it stays in their minds. Without any dialogue to sum it up, the film's final lingering shot along with Amanda Plummer's thoughtful expression says so much more about feelings than any other film ever could!
"Static" is the rarest of gems. I am glad Mark Romanek went on to make my
alltime favorite music video (Nine Inch Nails' 'closer'), because had he
amazed me with that video, I probably would never have been interested in
seeing "Static". When I finally did see this film, I was even more amazed
at how great it truly turned out to be, and wondered why it was that I had
to discover the film all by myself rather than it being directly
The story and directing is very captivating, as I soon found myself intently watching every second of the film to see what was going to happen next. Keith Gordon (who co-wrote the script with Romanek) was dead-on in his portrayal of Ernie Blick, an out-of-place young man in small town America with an obsession over his new 'invention'. It also took "Static" to turn me into an Amanda Plummer fan.
The movie's soundtrack alone is entertaining. No wonder Romanek went on to a career in music videos as he obviously has a wide knowledge of music. I mean, what can you say about a soundtrack that effectively includes songs from both The The and Elvis?
I can't help but believe that "Static" is one of the roots of today's massive independent film movement. All of the key elements to current popular indies can be found in "Static": limited budget, dark humor, a disturbed main character, psychologically-driven drama. The film's ending is original and surprising even by the standards of the modern 'twist-in-the-end' craze. What made me appreciate "Static" that much more is that it still didn't sit you down and spell everything out for you at the end with a narrated flashback montage (like too many movies do). Instead, it's up to you to figure all out yourself.
If you are a fan of today's popular independent films - especially Pi, Memento, or Donnie Darko - then please do yourself a favor and take a timewarp back to '85 to find out where these films originated from. See "Static".
I saw this about 15 years ago on late night television in the UK. Having seen John Carpenters 'Christine' a few weeks before I was curious about the expanded talents of Keith Gordon, and I was not disappointed. 'Static' is one of those films that never leaves the viewer. It's stark simplicity and realism has meant that everyday life keeps giving me 'flashbacks' to this movie. Even after all these years things are still very clear in my mind. Keith Gordons brilliantly understated performance and Amanada Plummer (in what must be one of her most controlled roles ever) capture the mood of the piece perfectly as one mans obsession builds to a devastating climax. The question of "was he right or crazy?" bears relevance beyond the confines of the film as we live a world where everyone, it seems, is guided to the point of blindness by their own beliefs and obsessions. Please ignore the shots of the kids in the alien masks on the advertising for this film. That is just another example of the distributor not having a clue what the film is really about.
I saw this film over 10 years ago, a few months before my father died. It was on late-night TV and I was fascinated by it - it remained in my mind, though at the time I didn't know how significant it would become. The general story dealt with a young man's "glimpse" of heaven through the static on his TV screen. A few months later, on the day of my father's funeral, I was sitting in my car with my son and my car radio appeared to "start up" without prompting; all I could get on the radio was "static noise". (This is all true.) I took this as a message from my father as the film had been so haunting in my mind. It wasn't frightening, but very comforting. The radio continued in this way on and off for a number of weeks until the car was scrapped. I extracted the radio itself and still have it now. I would love to see the film again and have tried on ebay without success. I can't remember much about the acting or direction, but surely the point of a good film is if it lingers in your mind? I haven't seen many films since then that have had this effect.
If you ever get the chance to watch this one take it. Mind you not sure how thats going to happen as for some insane reason it's not out on either VHS or DVD. So come on Mark , time to re-release this classic, I was lucky to see it at film school in the 1980's and unlike some things that's not where it should stay.
"Static" is a precious film. It's a well kept secret, the kind of far-out
gem (like , say, Talk Talk : "Spirit Of Eden") that will always escape
classification. In a word, it's weird.
Visually, it belongs to the white walls, new wave, ambient American minimalist wave of "Sex, Lies, And Videos", "Bodies, Rest And Motion", "Parents", or the cult Hal Hartley films. The cherry on the cake has to be its soundtrack, complete with sublime atmospheric synthethizer waves by Japan.
The story : something magical happened in a small community ...except noone "gets" it, and a fairly disturbed young man can't get to communicate his sublime vision, and share his surreal "invention". What he has come up with is mind boggling... and noone else recognizes it. Past the suspenseful first half, the film veers into another, more tragic, direction ("Sugarland Express" ?), as he takes on the world. Weird, wacky, wonderful.
Details (like the half-melt crucifix collection, the survivalist, his kids' alien masks) abound, creating a suitably subtle poetic atmosphere. Add to that the fascinating presence of Amanda Plummer, who adds a doubly poignant subplot (returning "home", and sympathising with the loner), and you have a true cult classic of the eighties. -Other possible recommendations : "The Reflecting Skin" , or "The Darkness Of Darkley Noon".
Basically a very simple story is stretched to the extreme. No one believes they can see heaven on a modified television, except the inventor and believer. The characters are quirky, and fairly well developed, but they really have very little to do except revolve around Keith Gordon and his preposterous invention. Bob Gunton and his family of survivalists are way up there on the strange scale and almost seem like they belong in a different movie. The ending is especially weak, and is both unsatisfying and totally unbelievable. Nevertheless, "Static" gets points for originality, even though the presentation is not fully developed. - MERK
Static is a gem of a film. As moving and dramatic in its finale as any film whilst concerning itself with small town bible land USA. Its pace is slow and its mood is quiet except for 15 minutes in which the main character seeks his Warhol moment. Excellent direction and use of little known cast. White Noise has never been more intriguing. I caught this film on late night television and then sought out the video which I was pleased to get my hands on. If you like Coen brothers work like Fargo and Raising Arizona I reckon you would appreciate Static. Ernie Flick played brilliantly by Keith Gordon (whatever happened to him?) is a character to empathise with and for whom the escape that we all probably desire was his only survival tool.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The acting is great. The cast accurately depict people in a small town and remind me of various people in my small town upbringing. Even the young man is realistic as a mentally ill 20 something year old. I would say if you are curious what a delusional young person that experiences a psychiatric break from reality experiences then watch this sad truth. It is very accurate. He is convinced he invented a machine to see heaven. When he reveals it to close friends and they see static on a screen instead of heaven, he suffers another break. He takes hostages on a bus that are elderly and want to believe him. In the end a stand off with police in his small town leafs to the bus being shot at and bursting in flames killing everyone on board. I have met and worked with people in the mental wards that experience very similar breaks. Although with different delusions than his. The media likes to show films and news like this showing people hurting others. In reality this is an inaccurate depiction of what tends to happen. Usually they are hospitalized and abandoned by families eventually who can not understand.
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