By Elias Savada.
It’s not just that the always quirky Crispin Glover is featured in Aimy in a Cage that makes it weird. Of course, for the actor who gained everyone’s attention as George McFly in Back to the Future (1985) and was the eponymous sociopathic rat wrangler in the 2003 reboot of Willard, his bearded charlatan, Claude Bohringer, adds another intriguing character to his resume. Glover plays creepy well (and often), and in this bizarre fantasy he dolls himself up with gold teeth and oodles of $-emblazoned bling rings, a black-infused wardrobe with derby hat, and a vaguely southern accent. He does subtle sadism well.
He fits right in with the rest of the cast, all of whom graciously embrace the absurdist nature of the film. Terry Moore, the energetic 86-year-old Oscar-nominated actress (1952’s Come Back, Little Sheba) whose most famous role was opposite King Kong’s smaller and friendlier nephew in Mighty Joe Young (1949), portrays the assertive and wicked Grandma Micry to her misunderstood granddaughter and “artist” Aimy Micry, played by the alliterative Allisyn Ashley Arm, a Disney Channel alum (Sonny with a Chance, So Random!), now moving fearlessly into the indie movie world. This waif is a would-be music box ballerina, and delicate free spirit. Paz de la Huerta (Nucky’s former mistress during the first two seasons of HBO’s Boardwalk Empire, 2010-14) also appears as Caroline Devanshire, a “tutor” (she seems more like a “bad nurse” who shares a lot of double-speak mumbo-jumbo with the family).
Aimy in a Cage is one strange bird. It flies and soars in ways that are beguiling. It’s the LSD-laced fever dream child of Hooroo Jackson – he bills it as “a HOOROO JACKSON trip” (as in “A Spike Lee Joint”) – its producer, director, writer (based on his own graphic novel), and editor. With its debt of inspiration to Terry Gilliam, Ken Russell, David Cronenberg, Peter Greenaway, some Clockwork Orange Stanley Kubrick, and others, the film is mind dazzling in its eccentric concept filled with crazed editing style, distorted cartoons (most public domain, one not!), slapstick musical selections written and performed by Joanna Wang, electronic score (by Sasha Smith and Metempsychosis), weird sound design (Erich Hochstrasser), and an eclectic, exaggerated costume, makeup, and candy coated production design (Chloe Barcelou, taking a page from the Wes Anderson school for the distinctly visualized), with Jackson showing incredible control over the bedazzling micro-budget production as a first time feature director.
The somewhat linear story follows a close knit family and their inner circle as they learn of the Apollo Plague, a paranoia-inducing worldwide epidemic that can be treated by an irrational Wollweürth Procedure involving an electro-convulsive technique, a lobotomy, and some other retro medical hijinks. This is where the cage in the title enters the picture. It’s a post-surgical recovery helmet, much like an old, cut-open Captain Nemo, deep sea diving helmet with some additional copper tubing shaped like an unstrung lyre above its headpiece.
Yeah, it’s that weird.
Both Glover and de la Huerta’s roles are but a few minutes of screen time; I suspect they flew in to Charlestown, Massachusetts, for a day or two of shooting. What can I say, they add name recognition. Arm and Moore carry the film, at least from an acting point of view.
Nothing is shown outside the parameters a few rooms in the Micry household. Strictly interiors. And there is a certain performance art theatricality to the undertaking. The second half of the 78-minute film gets muddled with some palace intrigue and bickering among various family members, mostly Aimy and Kelly Moss (Sara Murphy), her cousin. Claude threatens Aimy about an important piece of paper that Aimy has supposedly squirreled away.
Fans of twisted independent cinema might celebrate Aimy in the Cage (it won the Director’s Prize at the Portland (Oregon) Film Festival), and it is a beautiful film to behold, but the damn thing is madder than Alice’s Hatter!
Elias Savada is a movie copyright researcher, critic, craft beer geek, and avid genealogist based in Bethesda, Maryland. He helps program the Spooky Movie International Movie Film Festival, and previously reviewed for Film Threat and Nitrate Online. He is an executive producer of the new horror film German Angst and co-author, with David J. Skal, of Dark Carnival: the Secret World of Tod Browning.