Fever Dreams (2021)
Fever Dreams is scattershot indie film-making. It throws a lot on the screen to see what sticks. Some does. Some doesn't.
Since Fever Dreams is divided into four parts, it lessens the pretentiousness, since the tone and plots shift.
The four stories in Fever Dreams are The Agent,The Entertainer, The Cameraman, and It's My House.
Where the pretentiousness is constant is in the narrator (Jeff Briggs). The narrator, who connects the four tales, is a grizzled, bearded bum with a coarse manner.
The best tale is The Cameraman, the third episode, which uses film creatively and cleverly. Also effective is the opening episode, The Agent. Both episodes have memorable performances of over-the-top characters.
The Agent is about an agent looking desperately for screenplays, who is under great pressure, and meets an ominous, fateful character. Don Sill gives a strong performance as the rattled, paranoid, alcoholic agent.
But the most memorable performance in Fever Dreams is in The Cameraman, in which Neva Howell portrays a mean-spirited, dominating mother of her young, hopeful film-making son. It's the most film savvy episode. And she's a malicious hoot.
The slimmest segment is the second, The Entertainer. It's basically a one-joke episode that is under-developed. The last segment, It's My House, though capable, is not as strong as the best two.
Although the narrator is a staple of the genre, I prefer a droll Hitchcock to a fake bum.
If credibility is one of the assets of Fever Dreams, the narrating bum is a misfit. He reminds me of Eddie Muller, who tries to sell Noir on TCM. Authenticity is absent.
An irony is that Al Julian, one of the four producers and three writers, is a credible actor in his three roles in Fever Dreams.
Fever Dreams keeps good company. The writers make allusions to The Shining, Psycho, and other movie classics. There is a sense of the film world - past and present - in Fever Dreams.
Director Rob Underhill uses it to his advantage. Jim Crew adds a potent musical score. Underhill is stronger with male actors than actresses. But then there is Neva Howell.
Despite at times bumming one out, Fever Dreams transcends its flaws.