FILM GUTTER Come on in, the water's deep... LUNG II (2016) Dir. Phil Stevens, USA, 75 mins approx
Welcome back to Film Gutter, and rest assured it's been a long time since I've been looking forward to dipping my toes into a movie this much. Last year I was lucky enough to catch Phil Stevens' Flowers, which no doubt you've all heard me waxing lyrical about. Flowers scored a perfect 10/10 and was my top film of 2015 here at Film Gutter. So, when I was offered the chance to watch Lung II before its official release, you can bet I snatched that invitation with both hands. Phil Stevens' second feature is a prequel to Flowers,and that's about all I knew besides two things – one, this movie didn't have any dialogue either. And two, this one was in black and white. But if this one matched up to – or even came close to Flowers – then I knew this was going to be something special.
And it's rather a pleasure to say that this one did not disappoint. Refreshingly different from its predecessor but still displaying many of the same deft touches and powerful directorial vision to create a surrealistic nightmare layered with meaning and emotional intensity. I watched this one twice before getting to this review, and still feel as though more viewing would unveil more of this film. The plot certainly can't be described as linear, and the mood and tone put me in mind of something like Mulholland Drive – two lives bursting from one, memories exploding from the subconscious and threatening to pull our protagonist apart.
None of the characters are named at any point, and we follow the character I dubbed 'young' is played by Phil Stevens himself, who demonstrates another fine string to his bow. Why stop at just writing and directing eh? For the most part we follow him in a hospital gown, wandering the forests and backstreets looking for something that is never quite defined. His broken sensibility is really well captured in the subtle but disturbing soundtrack and strange visuals, including another man I've dubbed 'old' (also the lead killer in Flowers) pushing around a baby cart full of bones and body parts. The flashbacks 'young' endures are fractured and brutal, with the opening scenes in particular being bloody and visceral. It's only as the movie wears on that anything starts to become clear, and a sort of chronology and order to the memories becomes apparent.
With that said, there's still nothing much conventional at play here. This is a movie that is challenging in many respects. The pace is languid, allowing the mystery to develop slowly and for the viewer to take in every detail – and Lung II is so well-crafted every detail could well be important. There are hints and clues planted everywhere, and I expect to be finding more yet when I return for a third viewing. It's a movie you could watch with your friends and everyone would conjure up their own theories as to exactly what's going on – and there's a good chance none of you would be entirely wrong. This is complex filmmaking the manner of which can only be delivered by a great talent – there are shades here of David Lynch, but with a much bleaker and darker world view.
Yes, this is gory, and it is flat-out gross in places – I don't think I'll ever quite forget what was in that fridge – but with Stevens' work that seems to become almost secondary, or simply blend into the overall aesthetic. The horror and the darkness is part of the art – shown directly with the characters' drawings in a few places throughout. With this movie, the director shows that his astonishing debut was anything but a flash in the pan and marks himself as one of the most exciting talents in extreme horror. I can't wait to see what comes next...
RATING: 9.5/10. A blistering follow-up to Flowers that absolutely dispels any concept of 'the difficult second movie', at least in this instance. If anything Lung II is an even more fascinating and challenging piece of work than Flowers before it – moody, unflinching and remorseless whilst all the while retaining a superior artistic feel and the unique look and feel the director brings to his work. Watch it once, watch it twice, watch it five times – I'm sure you'll still be getting more from this complex film with every viewing. Trying to understand is all part of the journey, and even if you can't grab that meaning exactly it remains on hell of a ride. So it's a damn-near-perfect 9.5/10 from me.