Review: The Commune (2009) By Brian Kirst
Writer-Director Elisabeth Fies’ The Commune recalls the golden age of 1970’s filmmaking with its tawny subversiveness and silken grindhouse texture. Indeed, The Commune details the twisted journey of a glittery beauty (think the Candice Rialson classic Pets, only in reverse) and the film’s mythical mysteries recall the energy of such mainstream horror offerings as The Sentinel, Audrey Rose, Rosemary’s Baby and Burnt Offerings.
On the eve of her 16th birthday, Jenny is forced to spend the summer at a commune that is mysteriously lorded over by her guru-father. Jenny, who is initially angry to be the subject of a potential custody battle, is soon bewildered by her father’s overt sexuality and the other commune dwellers’ talk of healing trees and living, breathing trolls. As her father’s friends excitedly wait for her birthday night, Jenny finds that even the love of a handsome, guitar playing town boy may not save her from the destructive penetration of her ultimate fate.
While some of the action is slightly ponderous (how does Jenny’s father have photos in a file of a man her mother just met?), on the whole Fies works with a dreamy unease and subtle power. The true horror of the piece does not kick in until the final moments, but Fies rewards the patient among us with quirky characterizations, bizarre encounters and intense sexuality.
Much like Lana Turner in 1941’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Chauntal Lewis supplies (a slightly petulant) angelic glow as Jenny. Lewis uncovers the layers of Jenny’s dreamy adolescence and its visible cracks and she is well met by David Lago’s sexy, Goth friendly Puck. The tender eroticism the two elicit is well contrasted by the dark contrivances of co-stars Stuart G. Bennett and Adrian Lee, as Jenny’s forceful father and his quirky commune muse.