Brady Lewis’ “Daddy Cool” creates its own giddy world of vengeful siblings, televangelists, mad scientists, ’50s science fiction and low-budget horror with an enjoyable disregard for current trends in moviemaking. Though the indebtedness to David Lynch (particularly “Eraserhead”) and George Romero (a filmmaking father figure to fellow Pittsburgher Lewis) is obvious, it simply adds to the fun, and underlines what a clear candidate this is for the midnight movie circuit, as well as genre fests in the hunt for hidden gems.
With depressed Roxanne Alter (Streeter Nelson) explaining that “as a child I was a boy; later, I became a woman,” “Daddy Cool” gets off to a kooky start. Roxanne — beset by incessant images on TV of her dreaded father (Romero vet John Amplas), a money-thirsty reverend — is driven by a murderous desire to avenge his decapitating her twin sister Kristine (also Nelson) and preserving her head in a giant laboratory beaker.
The experiment seems to be the ultimate by-product of Rev. Alter’s former life as a TV science host. Lewis fragments this part of the story making it feel like it’s inside Roxanne’s boiling mind, and intercuts it with black-and-white sequences of a werewolf — who turns out to be Roxanne’s shrink, Dr. Talbot (Larry John Meyers) — stalking the streets for fresh victims.
Despite being burdened with a production so cash-strapped he had to stretch filming over more than four years, Lewis maintains a striking consistency of style and performance, characterized by thesps delivering their lines in a deliberately flat tone that hilariously accentuates the film’s disembodied nature. Nelson is amazing in the twin roles, crucially setting the strange tone and providing the deeply contorted emotional heart, while Amplas and Meyers suggest intellectuals who are in different ways half-human and half-animal, and capable of anything.
Retro production look is happily handmade and thoroughly inventive, with nary a digital effect in sight.