Director David Buchanan’s Laguna Avenue is a low-budget, black-and-white sci-fi noir with body horror elements and some dark humor that is strong on building a paranoid vibe. If that sounds like a lot of genres to tackle in one film, it is, but Buchanan and his game cast and crew make an energetic go of it.
Russell (Russell Steinberg), a former musician who lost one of his hands in an accident and now wears a prosthetic one, was recently fired for repeatedly sleeping on the job. He lives with his girlfriend Rita (Stephanie Brait), who has a well-paying executive-level job and is tired of supporting Russell. When Rita goes away, ostensibly on a business trip, Russell is attacked in the couple’s apartment and saved by their downstairs neighbor Gary (James Markham Hall Jr.), who begins rattling off — what initially sounds like to Russell — paranoid delusions and conspiracy theories that put people close to Russell at the center of the plot.
Laguna Avenue begins with a slacker dramedy tone but turns into something quite different, with Russell experiencing drug trips (Molly enemas, anyone?) and eventually power trips as he begins experiencing — first hand, so to speak — at least some of what Gary says about the world’s inevitable technological change. And trying to avoid spoilers as much as possible, yes, cyborgs are involved.
Buchanan, working from a screenplay by Paul Papadeas, helms this offbeat slice of weird cinema with aplomb, with Steinberg and Markham Hall Jr. providing great energy as an odd-couple buddy pairing and the supporting cast members all giving intriguing turns, including Sheridan Ward as Gary’s partner in weird-science crimes and Zachary Taylor as drug-dealing neighbor Dan. Old-school–flavored computer effects from Will Erokan add to the trippiness of the film, which also boasts some solid rock tunes and synthesizer flourishes.
Laguna Avenue screens as part of London’s Arrow Video FrightFest, which ran an in-cinema lineup from August 26–30 and which runs an online digital lineup from September 1–5, 2021. For more information, visit https://www.frightfest.co.uk/.
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