Review: ‘The Beast Pageant’

This plotless microbudget B&W fantasia never quite develops into more than an extended goof.

Borrowed body parts from “Eraserhead,” “Videodrome,” “Forbidden Zone,” “Iron Man” and Cory McAbee’s more recent subterranean musicals (“The American Astronaut”) are sewn together to create the eccentric creature that is “The Beast Pageant.” Lacking the truly original flavor possessed by its midnight-movie progenitors, this plotless microbudget black-and-white fantasia never quite develops into more than an extended goof. Nonetheless, its handmade surrealism has a daffy, guileless appeal that should win converts in fest slots and niche DVD/download sales.

Everyman Abraham (co-director/writer/producer Jon Moses) lives a dystopian lifestyle, a Rube Goldbergian contraption in his flat providing prepacked affection (Emily Osinski as melodious-voiced “Machine Woman”) and material needs (via Ted Greenway as a “Machine Man” who sells/delivers everything from raw fish to new shoes). After a bodily growth gives “birth” to Abe’s cowboy-hatted, guitar-strumming mini-me, Zeke (Moses again), the duo escape into the great outdoors. There, their adventures become a series of enjoyable silly-song interludes among dancing pine trees and other oddball creatures. Costumes, op-art interiors, junkyard-assembled props and occasional animation all have a lo-fi inventiveness that’s endearing, even if this three-year labor of love feels more derivative than intended.

The Beast Pageant

Production

A Jubadaba Production. Produced by Jon Moses and Albert Birney. Executive producers, Nicholas Gurewitch, Jim Healy, Dan Lane. Directed, written by Albert Birney, Jon Moses.

Crew

Camera (B&W, 16mm-to-HD), Eric Laplante; editor, Maurice Dowdry; music, the Beast Pageant Orchestra; production designers, Birney, Moses; costume designer, Vanessa Lauria. Reviewed at Slamdance Film Festival (competing), Jan. 21, 2011. Running time: 74 MIN.

With

Jon Moses, Ted Greenway, Emily Osinski, S. Michael Smith, Sam Hughes, Daan Zwick, Brad Ward, Steve Shanker, Rocco Hagen, Janice Dowd.

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