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Friday, March 15, 2013

The Bunny Game DVD Review

The Bunny Game is a strange sort of horror film in which a prostitute identified only as “Bunny” in the closing credits is kidnaped and tortured by a truck driver called “Hog.” The film is presented in black and white, which has the effect of making the world seem just slightly off from ours, but equally real, like another layer of this life just below the surface.

The movie opens with a close-up shot of a woman being suffocated in a plastic bag, then cuts to Bunny in the act of fellatio, the man’s hands holding her hair. Bunny is having trouble breathing too, thus drawing an immediate connection between the two women, relating the two experiences in a strange way.

Then we see Bunny (Rodleen Getsic) in her world - walking the streets, smoking cigarettes, doing cocaine, being used roughly by another man then crying afterwards, clearly unhappy with her life. But then she’s back on the street, not changing because of that experience. The film quickly establishes the odd pattern of her life. It’s a montage, but it effectively sets up her life.

At times, the screen goes black between scenes, also effectively working to describe her situation – the blackouts, the missing moments when she’s absent from her own life. A john rips her off during one of those moments. It’s surprising after that when she makes a phone call. Who would she call? She seems so alone. But whoever it is doesn’t answer. Maybe she called no one. This is a woman who is on her own.

All of this really works to establish her character before the moment when things will go even more wrong for her. And that moment has one of my favorite shots of the film. We see the truck approaching from a long way off behind her. We notice it, and have enough time to think about what it means for her before she notices it.  Also, this moment is where she seems her most at ease, her most calm. She dominates the left side of the screen, as the truck slowly pulls up on the right. It pulls over beside her, and surprises her (but not us). And then she’s in, doing cocaine with the driver (Jeff Renfro). That’s still part of her normal pattern, but we know things are now far from normal, even from her version of normal.

This is when the film changes. Bunny is knocked out for quite a while, and the man plays with her in the back of his truck. At times it’s intense, though oddly it goes on long enough that you become detached a bit. And when she finally wakes, screaming, chained up, you realize it’s the next day. The truck driver is seated outside, patient. That’s another excellent moment.

And then the torture begins. It’s interesting, because in some ways the first part of the film is more intense and unsettling than the second. Partly, this is because of the way the film is cut once it gets to the torture. There’s another montage, of Hog in the truck and, presumably, at home, torturing another woman. Flashing back to that other woman eases the tension, rather than creating more, because that stuff is safely in the past. It would be more intense if the film stayed relentlessly in the present, with Bunny, there being no escape for her, nor for us. If we stay with her, then we’re experiencing everything with her. The flashbacks effectively give us distance, because we have more information than she does. For example, when he shaves Bunny’s head, we’ve already seen him do it to someone else, so it’s not surprising to us the way it would be for her. It’s not shocking.

What the other girl’s presence does do, however, is show that Hog’s life follows its own pattern, just as Bunny’s does, and so draws some strange connection between them.

There are a lot of crazy flashes and quick cuts, which also seem to remove some of the tension. The closer the film gets to a music video, the less real it feels.  I wish the film would hold on some of the shots longer, making the audience really face what’s happening, rather than using those short, frantic cuts. Those quick cuts do work in small doses, of course, like a sudden racing of your heart. And there are some really good, well-framed, interesting shots.

Plot-wise, not much happens. But this film does stick with you. It’s sort of the mood of the thing that stays with you, as well as some of the images. And both of the lead actors do a great job. There is a moment near the end when Bunny expresses a sort of delirious, demented joy that is absolutely fantastic.

It’s almost a two-person production. The director, Adam Rehmeier, is also producer, co-writer, editor, and cinematographer. He also did the original score. Rodleen Getsic, who plays Bunny, is also a producer, writer, and costumer. (By the way, her own last name is tattooed on her arm, and I had mixed feelings regarding that tattoo’s presence in the film. On the one hand, it does make it feel that this is really happening to her; on the other hand, I kept thinking about it, and wondering if they couldn’t have used makeup to cover it, as the actor’s name is not necessarily the character’s name.)

Special Features

The DVD contains several special features, including a commentary track by director Adam Rehmeier and star Rodleen Getsic. The commentary does provide some interesting information. Neither star was an actor prior to this, and Jeff Renfro really is a truck driver. Adam’s story of meeting Jeff is insane. They shot short days, only five or six hours a day. We learn that the shots of the other woman were done in Jeff’s own home. Adam and Rodleen do talk briefly about how the film was banned in the UK. Adam calls the movie, “a modern cautionary tale that’s grounded in reality.”

Safety did not seem a primary concern in making the film. For example, in a shot where Bunny is running, they talk about how Rodleen got metal shards in her feet. But we don’t really see her feet in the shot, so the actor could very well have worn shoes. I assumed she did when I was watching it.  Plus, the branding, as it turns out, was real. Jeff Renfro actually branded Rodleen Getsic. They talk about how Jeff did it without giving the director any signal, and Adam was lucky he was able catch it with the camera. That is insane.

The commentary is a bit frustrating because they don’t answer the biggest question, which is, What exactly from this was based on Rodleen’s experience? They hint that this film was based at least partially on something from her life, but at no point does she indicate precisely which scenes or moments were from her life.

Rodleen comes off as a bit of a weirdo in the commentary. She talks about how she saved a bag of her hair from the production, and still had it as of the time this was recorded. She also made a gift of some of her hair, and I can't help but wonder how that person reacted.

The second special feature is a sixteen-minute documentary titled Caretaking The Monster: The Story Of The Bunny Game. This special, which is as interesting as the film, features interviews with Adam Rehmeier, Rodleen Getsic, Jeff Renfro, Gregg Gilmore, and Drettie Page.

Here Rodleen does talk briefly about her actual experience. She says she’s been “abducted more than a couple times. But this one time in particular was pretty savage.”  Jeff talks about attacking Adam when they first met. Adam talks about how there was no script, just a story idea. He also says the only things faked in the film are the cocaine and the alcohol.

Perhaps the most interesting interview is with Gregg Gilmore, who plays Jonas. He’s in only one scene, but originally the film was going to be about his character. He talks about how and why he decided he couldn’t do the whole film, and that is really interesting. There was no crew for this shoot, and Rodleen was basically willing to do anything. Gregg, the voice of sense and reason, says, “It’s thrilling, but it’s so fucking dangerous.”

Rodleen, by the way, is candid about her feelings about him backing out. And, clearly a bit of a nut, she says, “Part of my soul did die in making this film.”

The DVD also includes two trailers for the film, as well as a Poster & Still Gallery.

The Bunny Game was released on Blu-ray and DVD on July 31, 2012 through Autonomy Pictures.

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