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Thursday, November 8, 2018

BAFF 2018: THE GOD INSIDE MY EAR delivers stylish editing and hallucinations

There's a small subgenre of horror films that I like to call the descent-into-madness film. It's a tried and true, from Fuller's Shock Corridor to Aronofsky's Black Swan to Kon's Perfect Blue, and when it's done right it can be as unsettling and mesmerizing as the goriest Italian Giallo. These films do run the risk of being all style and little substance when the goal is to portray something as abstract as madness itself. Joe Badon's The God Inside My Ear walks that fine line, and manages to combine some of the techniques of the classics into something pretty interesting.

The God Inside My Ear follows Elizia (Linnea Gregg) as she navigates life after a difficult breakup. Not a totally normal breakup, either; her ex left her after becoming deeply involved with a strange cult that helped him avoid the lizard men that were out to get him. Elizia finds herself hearing strange voices in inanimate objects and over the phone in the form of an oddly personal telemarketer, and in time begins to lose her grip on reality as her friends get more concerned for her mental health.

The first thing to note about the film is its strong sense of style, particularly in the visuals and the editing. There are a number of stylistic flourishes that really stand out, in particular the use of color. On top of the colored light that recalls a film like Suspiria that is used throughout, there is a careful use of color in the production design which never misses an opportunity to make even the dullest household setting a little more interesting. 

The editing (done by Joe Badon himself, along with Joseph Estrade and Daniel Waghorne) is fascinating and easily the most effective thing about the film overall. It never shies away from extreme techniques, like the split screen blind date that recalls De Palma, or the many layers of exposures to create psychedelic effects. Perhaps even more striking, perhaps, is the use of jump cuts as we progress further into Elizia's instability. While the audio stays consistent, we cut just slightly forward in time at random intervals, creating a sense of unease, almost as if we're blacking out and missing time as Elizia is.

Metaphorical imagery is of the utmost importance in a movie like this, and it's done very well here. From the opening sequence of eclipses, water, and extreme closeups of eyes and ears, it's clear that we're in for something a bit more abstract. The dreams and hallucination sequences are the best bits of the film, each with a different sense of style and tone than the last, and it's clear that this is where the heart of the film lies.

The tone is an interesting one; it almost plays out like Wes Anderson directing Eraserhead. Elizia and most of the surrounding cast play things with a very dry sense of humor that is cleverly at odds with the sometimes apocalyptic imagery in her mind. While Gregg perfectly embodies this tone, sporting a very Zooey Deschanel look, her friends have a less humorous perspective throughout.

If you're a fan of these kinds of abstract horror or suspense films, this is definitely worth your time. Some may find the preference of style over substance to be repetitive or dull over the course of the film's 93 minutes, but the style is oh-so-cool. There's a lot to like here, and a revelation near the end of the film cleverly provides an answer to the mysterious events while still asking further questions.

The God Inside My Ear is directed by Joe Badon and is the opening feature film of the 2018 Buried Alive Film Fest on 11/15 at 9pm in Atlanta, Georgia.
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