Amoeba Films

Brian Wimer, Primary Instigator

Mantra :: Feature Film Trailer

What happens when you mix metaphysics with mondo horror? You get a naked blue lady and Seven Little Indians falling off the spiritual path to their artistically-unique dooms.

MANTRA was our first bona fide attempt to make a feature film, albeit on a shoestring budget. Because we didn’t want to fight the uphill battle of trying to sell some starless coming of age drama, we went for horror. A genre piece, they call it.  But we didn’t want to do a slasher fest or resort to torture porn.

MANTRA was based on my experiences practicing bardo death state meditations on a ten-day silent retreat with Buddhist monks in Dharamsala, India. The thought was that Buddhist is largely a meditation on desire and suffering (and their cessation). And, coincidentally, so are horror films.

The story went like this: When their guru dies in a hiking accident, six strangers on a spiritual retreat find themselves hunted by their own fears and delusions … no one saves them.

We shot MANTRA in seven days at a local 4H camp on a Panasonic HVX with a Letus lens adapter and Nikon primes. Some horrendously long hours in dipping temperatures. A broken thumb. Nude, blood-covered actresses cursing me out at 3am.

Result: a successful stab at cinema which the Richmond Times dubbed “a new genre of art house horror.” It won Best Feature Film at Fright Night Film Festival 2009 in Kentucky. The Denver Daily News called it: “Rare … scary yet thought provoking. A local critic called it: “Cinematographically gorgeous … Pure escapism and pure art … a frightening downpour of synesthesia … It is as horrific an art film as I’ve seen, and as artful a horror film as I’ve seen.”

Although the film was unanimously praised for its cinematography, it turned out perhaps a bit too metaphysical for the diehard teenage horror market … and too gory for the devout Buddhists. The French, however, loved it. Attached below is a 6 star “blockbuster” review from horreur.com.

REVIEW: FEBRUARY 2010

MANTRA (6 STARS)
By COLIN VETTIER – HORREUR.COM - translated from French by Gabrielle Kauffmann

The Amoeba has returned, and Brian “Eat Me: The Musical” Wimer is back for more.

I sat to watch Mantra without knowing what to expect. I already had a taste of his immense talent watching Eat Me: The Zombie Musical. But this scenario was completely different. The musical comedy was a freak show, bordering on psychedelic delirium. On paper, Mantra seemed to steer clear from such wild meanderings.

For the second consecutive time, I was completely blown away. This next movie from the Amoeba is purely and simply a masterpiece. It comes out of the blue – and strikes where we least expect it. Where others would have handed us another rehashed woodland slasher flick, Wimer has given birth to an intimate, original work. The codes and clichés of the genre are shattered by the intelligence of the writing and direction. This is one of those films that will be unsettling to closed–minded filmgoers for whom the presence of formulaic narrative structure is a necessity.

Once more, the director leaves the beaten path, coaxing the viewer to a novel experience: that of great art. In order to fully appreciate the film’s qualities, you need to absorb the universe of Mantra. This film is not “watched” like any other movie – you have to experience it.

The first thing that jumps to your eyes is the superior production value, compared to Eat Me: The Zombie Musical. The Guerilla Filmmaking of the first film is gone. You can feel this in every frame. The Amoeba is now much calmer. Everything is more beautiful, more polished, even the light – with autumnal, natural imagery – a most beautiful effect. The medium is no longer an obstacle to immersion in the movie. On the contrary, the viewer is caught, initiated into this singular, mystical adventure…

Mantra impresses us with its honesty and the accuracy of its direction … It immediately impresses upon us the sadness and despair of each of the characters. The whole atmosphere of the movie bleeds melancholy. The choice of autumnal colors contributes to it, reinforced by a pervasive, hauntingly-hypnotic soundtrack. Wimer’s clever approach is unsurprisingly captivating. Great art!

Occasionally, the camera plunges directly into the characters themselves to give us a taste of their inner poisons. We discover fragile individuals, on the verge of breaking. Each is rocked by violent delusions, haunted by the past, present and future. They use their isolation to hunt old demons and be reborn, free from their shackles. Yet on this path of purity, innocence and forgiveness the six will only find death and destruction. (The question remains if they were already dead before they arrived at the spiritual retreat.) Through emptiness and disillusionment, this path of initiation shapes a new being from an empty shell.

Ultimately, Mantra revives the extreme aesthetic that Mr. Argento used and even abused. Although, Wimer works in a resolutely modern tone. His imagery, music and characters are all pure products of the 21st century, ridden with existential anguish. His artistic vision is similar to that of Argento (and Bava, since we are quoting all the masters) who finely sculpted their images for graphically-spectacular results. But, where the Italian masters worked in the Gothic style, Wimer works in a modern tone of refined imagery. This is not to say that Mantra’s aesthetics are empty. On the contrary, the formal images are alive, vibrating with mysticism.

Brian Wimer = Dario Argento 2.0? Not far. But where the Italian master forces us to swallow tepid and rancid soups, the American brings us a breath of freshness. It’s not every day a filmmaker has the balls to innovate. And when he does it so well, it’s a blockbuster.


 


Amoeba Art & Media (a.k.a. Amoeba Films) is an award-winning production company and film studio in Central Virginia.

Contact :: Brian Wimer, Primary Instigator • 434.249.8759

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