Plain Devil: Indie Movie Friday
Dir. Tonjia Atomic (2014)
Three members of a girl gang are looking for their fourth. Luckily, they stumble across a new Gypsy immigrant who is also looking to belong.
It’s rare for me to take the time to review a film that isn’t even really horror-adjacent, but Tonjia Atomic, who I first came across when reviewing Joe Sherlock’s films, sent me two of her directorial films and I wanted to make sure that I gave them both the time they deserve. Luckily for me, what I found was a hilarious genre film that feels like a John Waters/Russ Meyer mashup in Plain Devil. It’s a well-produced film with a killer rockabilly soundtrack, and it comes along with one of the most inventive character introduction setup that I’ve ever seen. The film is about a girl gang that is currently comprised of three gals: Bomber Hoshi (played by director Tonjia Atomic), Einstein Vagein (the smart one, played by Rachel Jackson), and Trashy (the lover, played by Danielle Daggerty). These three are an updated version of the Sharks, or the Jets, or some other relatively benign gang from cinema history, but they quickly realize that they’re not much of a gang with only three people and begin their search for a fourth. They come across Lil Gypsy (Ada Karamanyan), a recent immigrant who is also looking for people with whom she belongs. After initial confrontations with the new girl, Bomber realizes that Lil Gypsy is just as in love with Mickey Rourke as she is, and their new bond paves the way for Gypsy to join the gang and give them their coveted fourth member. The movie is, essentially, a “film about nothing,” as the best indie films often are. It's parody for parody’s sake, and it’s absolutely brilliant. The tongue-in-cheek critique on wanting to belong is permeated with a sense of style that is all Atomic and a sense of humor that is fucking hilarious. From their pursuit of matching tattoos at the Christian-based and amazingly named What Would Jesus Tattoo, in a scene in which only one girl follows through, to the scene where Gypsy argues that calling someone a she-devil is sexist to both devils and women, the movie is jam packed with outstanding scenes and some of the best writing and acting I’ve seen from an indie film in a long time. Is there such a thing as a rockabilly movie? If there is, this film would fit firmly within the genre. With more inspirations than could be easily quantified, the film feels like Waters without the shit (but with equal drag queens), Meyers without the tits (but with equal grittiness), and Grease if it was actually a good movie. Atomic fucking kills this film, and she delivers one of the more watchable indies I’ve seen this year. It’s a great film, and it’s so much more fun than I even expected. Atomic manages to avoid the standard pitfalls of indie filmmaking, where nudity or fake blood (not that there’s anything wrong with those) is often used to hide deficits in cinematography or script, and she delivers a truly unique film that was a joy to watch. Like all other indie films, the audience for such a movie is limited, as a lot won’t enjoy the events of the movie. Nevertheless, the film presents a unique view of feminism in the style of Doris Wishman, a crude and vulgar (but not as vulgar as Miss Wishman) take on femininity and the expectations imposed on women. After all, they’re not she-devils: they’re just Plain Devils. Who this movie is for: Indie film lovers; Comedy fans; Girl Bosses, uh, I mean Plain Bosses Bottom line: Hilarious from beginning to end, this film is a must see for anybody who appreciates indie comedy. Tonjia Atomic is wildly talented and deserves way more viewers, she’s easily the best at this kind of filmmaking since John Waters. While she doesn’t completely let her freak flag fly during the film, she delivers her own brand of unique comedy and style. For anyone who gets a chance to watch, stay tuned after the credits for a rocking 8-bit music video for Night of the Sharksquatch.