What Is It? is an aptly named film, since a more vulgar variation of that exact question is probably what circles the brain of anyone who sees it.
After seeing David Lynch’s masterpiece Eraserhead, I was convinced I had just seen the strangest, most twisted film ever made. I kept searching for an even stranger film afterwards, however, and though I had finally found the world’s strangest movie when I saw Inland Empire. Crispin Glover’s 2005-film What Is It? might actually be a few steps beyond Inland Empire.
Trying to explain what the film’s plot is is useless, though I will try to talk about the things that happen in the film, just to show you how much sense it makes. Firstly i shall point out – majority of the cast has Down syndrome, and no, I have no clue what Crispin Glover intended when deciding he in his directional debut should cast actors who can barely speak intelligibly. The rest of the cast consists of porn-actors and Crispin Glover himself, as well as Fairuza Balk, who was also in American History X.
The lead character, referred simply to as The Young Man, is a mentally handicapped man who enjoys playing with a pipe and torturing snails by pouring salt on them because he loves them. One day he wanders off and finds a lady in a park where – from what I can comprehend – mentally challenged people, some with deformities, are cosplaying and beating each other up. He invites the lady to sex and we’re transported into what I believe is The Young Man’s mind.
Crispin Glover rules The Young Man’s mind. It is a place of disturbing porn-scenes, bizarre puppet-shows, Charles Manson music, minstrels who think they are Michael Jackson – which is still not as offensive as Skids and Mudflap from Transformers 2 -, gigantic clams containing nude men, and worship of Shirley Temple. No, I have no idea why this happens inside the head of The Young Man or what one thing as to do with another, or what ANY of it has to do with the nonsense that goes on outside of The Young Man’s mind.
One thing happens and then another happens, and the audience hasn’t a clue why any of it does happen. Are we supposed to? Are we supposed to view it as serious art or as a parody on incomprehensible art films? Me, I view it as a random, repulsive mess and further proof that Crispin Glover’s head may not be all there. Aside from music by composers such as Wagner, the film contains music by Anton LaVey, founder of Satanism. Strangely I am not surprised.
There truly seems to be no point to any of madness in this film. Why are most of the actors either mentally retarded or porn stars with animal heads? Why do the snails need to get killed? Why does there need to be a bunch of disturbing porn spliced into the madness? Why does the film need to be so random, offensive, disturbing, disgusting and just outright ugly?
No matter what you think the whole point of the film is, it’s undeniable that you will be turned off by the movie’s racism, obscenity and animal cruelty; however, I’ve heard that Glover made the film solely to see how many people would find it offensive, so the whole point of this utter madness might actually be to simply be mean. You will feel uncomfortable as you watch it, if you actually dare to expose yourself to this demented garbage.
You’re wondering, why do I hate this movie, but love most other surreal films such as Eraserhead and Donnie Darko? Well, not only is it because those films aren’t as purely evil as What Is It? but it’s also because those films don’t exist solely to be evil.
Oancitizen is the name of one of the newest reviewers at That Guy With The Glasses and What Is It? is one of the films he has analyzed. You know a film is completely messed-up when it even drives him to madness. The review, unlike the film, is worth checking out. I don’t think anyone deserves seeing the film without funny commentary.
UPDATE: Oops, turns out the video I talked about has been deleted after Glover personally got in touch with Kyle “Oancitizen” Kallgren and forced him to remove it. Class act, Crispin. God forbid anyone freely speaks ill of such a serious attempt at movie-making as this: