Starring: Amy Everson, Kentucker Audley, and Alanna Reynolds
Written by: Amy Everson and Jason Banker
Directed by: Jason Banker
“Sexiness is overrated. Being human is overrated.”
A women lures her philandering boyfriend out to her “Special Spot”; a clutch of woods littered with burnt out redwoods.”I brought you something. To make you look pretty.”, she coos, oddly, handing him a beige bodysuit of sorts, complete with crude anatomical breasts and a vagina, sewn onto the material. As he dresses, she takes off her own clothes to reveal her own suit, her own homebrewed “anatomy” which she tops off with a sock-like mask, marked with Sharpie and cut to give her the twisted appearance of masculinity. This is her Superhero Suit. This is her becoming. This is Felt.
Released in 2014 and serving as one of the major repetitory screenings of the Final Girls Berlin Film Festival, Amy Everson and Jason Banker’s Felt is a virtuoso exploration of feminine rage and grief, filtered through both the art house and horror genres. Centered around Amy, an artist who has experienced an unseen and unspoken about assault (more on that brilliant decision later), the film tracks her descent into weird, homemade personas built outward from bizarre and grotesque bodysuits she sews and modifies. But after she is pushed back into dating by her well-meaning friends, she finds herself betrayed once again. She’s pushed over the edge into a full-tilt explosion of violence against the patriarchy that has violated her time and time again.
I will say just up front that Felt is not a movie for everyone, but not in the way you would assume. Though expressly ABOUT trauma, Banker and Everson make the absolutely wonderful decision to never explicitly SHOW or name Amy’s assault. It is simply a spectre that hangs over the entire run time. But in doing so, they keep the focus expressly on Amy, her journey, and her pain and THEREIN lies why this movie may be a turn off for some. It never once shys away from the rawness of what Amy is experiencing or the bizarre turns she starts to take as she attempts to deal with it through her artwork.
Which brings us to the OTHER reason this movie masterfully unsettles its audience; Amy’s artwork. Using real-life pieces and curios from Everson’s own person collection and installations (including a mask directly inspired by J.A. Bayona’s The Orphanage), the film charts her evolution into her putridly male personas with uncomfortable, immaculate detailing, showing her making the suits in between mundane slices of her everyday life, and debuting them in eerie, dance like sequences set against the background of a dense forest or a vivid San Francisco sunset. Amy gives such a brilliant and brave performance out of the costumes. As soon as one shows up and as we see them more and more, you can tell you are watching something so nakedly personal and informed that it is hard to watch and equally hard to look away.
Though Felt isn’t a “horror movie” in the conventional sense, that doesn’t make it any less essential. Armed with a dreamlike quality and look and twisting the narrative conventions of how the genre treats sexual assault and victimhood, Felt is a masterstroke of genre filmmaking. One that transcends itself and expectations to deliver a powerful statement, one that often goes unspoken and ignored in the genre. Felt might not be an easy watch but it is certainly a rewarding one.