Tag Archives: Adam Egypt Mortimer

Don’t Say Super


by Hope Madden

In a seedy underworld ripe for the comic book taking, a teen crime journalist named Hamster just wants a shot to tell the real stories of these streets. He stumbles across a homeless man who claims to be a hero from another dimension. The thing is, Hamster believes him.

Hokey, right? It is, but co-writer/director Adam Egypt Mortimer hits an interesting tone with Archenemy. He creates the space needed to develop some ideas before logic and cynicism close them down.

Mortimer combines animation with live action, sometimes bleeding whispery voiceover into the mix to heighten the sense that nothing is as it seems. Is Max Fist (that is a name!) really from a parallel dimension, or is he an alcoholic schizophrenic homeless guy living under the bridge?

Mortimer mainly works from young Hamster’s point of view, occasionally veering into Max’s. By limiting the logic of the tale to the perspective of either a naïve optimist or the likely victim of mental illness and addiction, the filmmaker ensures that you’re never truly able to differentiate reality from unreality.

It’s a tough tone to maintain, but Mortimer manages, thanks in large part to the commitment of his lead. As Max Fist (seriously, that name!), Joe Manganiello carries Archenemy on his shoulders. The performance is simultaneously lucid and muddled, with a physical edge that makes the character feel like a threat even at his most vulnerable.

Around him, characters are sometimes cartoonish (Glenn Howerton as The Manager or Paul Scheer as Kreig), but Manganiello keeps the film from dipping into camp with a turn that’s gritty and believable.

Skylan Brooks does a fine job of elevating the least realistic role—a character that benefits from endless contrivances. The writing around Hamster is easily the weakest part of the film, but Brooks does what he can to keep you engaged.

As Hamster’s sister Indigo, Zolee Griggs walks an interesting line as well, the good guy and bad guy in the same breath. It’s an understated performance that impresses. And Amy Seimetz—always a welcome sight—delivers a resigned villainy that perfectly suits the picture.

Archenemy has plenty of faults, but more than enough inspiration and grit to make you want to overlook them.  

I Am Luke’s Broken Heart

Daniel Isn’t Real

by Hope Madden

Director Adam Egypt Mortimer’s stylish image of mental illness takes a kind of demonic Fight Club angle, hits some mildly homoerotic notes (like Fight Club didn’t?), and offers a quick and absorbing- if hardly new- horror show.

Co-writing with Brian DeLeeuw an adaptation of DeLeeuw’s novel In This Way I Was Saved, Mortimer drops us mid-mom scream into an average afternoon in the life of poor little Luke (Griffin Robert Faulkner, painfully adorable).

As Luke wanders away from home to avoid his mother’s psychotic episode, he witnesses the aftermath of a gruesome murder, but finds a new friend: Daniel.

Quickly enough, Daniel is helping Luke cope with his personal trauma, taking his mind off his problems, and maybe encouraging some truly evil behavior.

From here Mortimer directs us to an effectively creepy doll house (such a great prop in nearly any terrifying film or terrifying child’s bedroom), which will become (as it does in Hereditary and The Lodge) a fine symbol for the madness of the mind.

Mortimer’s film looks great and benefits from a trio of strong performances.

Mary Stuart Masterson, playing Luke’s paranoid schizophrenic mother, gives a brave and believable performance in a role that can easily be overdone.

More importantly, Mortimer’s besties/worsties Luke and Daniel (Miles Robbins and Patrick Schwarzenegger, respectively) create complete characters and offer an uneasy chemistry that keeps the film intriguing.

As Luke’s life spins inevitably out of control, Daniel’s clothing takes on a more and more Tyler Durden style, and I can get behind that. And a certain point near Act 3, Daniel Isn’t Real takes a weird and welcome Clive Barker turn, which is when elements stop being so stylishly predictable and become sloppily fascinating.

The unfortunate Magical Negro trope that will not die surfaces here. It doesn’t entirely sink the film, but it does its damndest to do just that.

Even so, Daniel Isn’t Real is an Olympic-sized leap forward from Mortimer’s previous feature, Some Kind of Hate, the director here showcasing an unpredicted visual flair and storytelling finesse. Though his film treads some well-worn ground, the way Mortimer and team balance the supernatural and psychological push and pull creates an unnerving atmosphere.