The story of a young woman (Juno Temple) discovering that she is both a lesbian and a werewolf, Bradley Rust Gray’s oddball horror parable starts with an irresistibly trashy premise and proceeds to treat it with the po-faced pretentiousness of a film-school thesis. The filmmaker, who along with wife So Yong Kim (Treeless Mountain), has spearheaded a resurgence of New York–based neorealism, groks the subtextual underpinnings of the genre but has no feel for, or even apparent interest in, its superficial pleasures. Temple’s Diane does go through quasi-lupine transfiguration, realized through cutaways to hairy, gooey stop-motion by the Brothers Quay. But her metamorphosis occurs mainly in the realm of metaphor, dropped into an invariably slight girl-meets-girl story anchored by wide-eyed, rootless wonder.
When Gray isn’t courting controversy (or maybe he’s simply grasping for coherence?) with a subplot about Temple’s twin sister falling under the sway of an online pornographer, he has a tendency to indulge in an unexplained fetish for retro paraphernalia. Diane’s butch crush, Jack (Riley Keough, Elvis Presley’s granddaughter), skateboards around Manhattan listening to Yazoo’s “Only You” on a cassette Walkman, while our heroine bumps tracks from postpunk band the Fall at her aunt’s crash pad. Those Reagan-era college-rock cuts are supposed to remind of us of simpler times, perhaps—or at least of a long-gone moment before every half-assed monster movie was guaranteed a place on an undergraduate syllabus.
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