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by Jay Seaver

"Nymphs, were-unicorns, alien sisters, and stranger things."
4 stars

SCREENED AT THE 2012 BOSTON SCIENCE FICTION FILM FESTIVAL: "Folklore" is the sort of comedy that will, over the course fo the film, tell the audience about a hundred jokes in the hope that enough hit to make the whole thing worth it. It's got a hit rate of around 50%, which is pretty good, all things considered. The really good news is that the bits which might grate become funnier as the movie goes on, rather than the other way around.

Collins Jahn (Brad Roller) has been working for the Quartz Agency for a few months, and today he has a busy day ahead of him: Quartz's purpose is to monitor the various mystical, extraterrestrial, and scientifically augmented intelligences on Earth, and it's census time. Today's schedule of biennial interviews includes an android (Paris Benjamin), alien sisters (Sherill Turner and Rachel Rath), a vampire (Ruth Connell), a time traveler (Napoleon Ryan), a shape-shifter (Tracy A. Bjelland), a banshee (Elizabeth Knowelden), a Chinese god (Roy Ying), a werewolf (Larry Purtell), a were-unicorn (Maria Olsen), and angel (Sarah Lynn Dawson), an Icelandic troll (Garrett Liggett), and a water nymph (Paulie Rojas). Collins does have the assistance of camera tech Merle Eppis (Laura Waddell), but to be completely honest, she's probably the weirdest of them all.

Writer/director Justin Calen Chenn isn't going for anything very complicated in terms of plotting or mythology here; the dozen interviews are, by and large, individual sketches that stand on their own instead of adding up to a larger plot or even character arc for Jahn (although the impression he makes on the ladies is a recurring theme). Chenn does break the longer ones up and bounce back and forth over the course of the movie, and that's a pretty good idea: Not every bit is going to strike gold for everyone, and having the the interview with the alien Ipsitt sisters play out in its entirety early on could certainly burn out the goodwill of some in the audience, even if they're inclined to like the other segments.

Which bits work and which bits don't is likely a matter of personal taste. The alien sisters, for instance, had to grow on me over the course of the movie (they are meant to be annoying, at least initially), but they actually might have the best character moment of anybody. The unicorn section felt more mean than quirky, and some bits work mainly because of their brevity. The Amelie-by-way-of-Audrey water nymph is going to be utterly adorable to some, and both the android and time traveler have more than a few good moments, especially if you go for the "random oddity" school of humor.

Those are the sorts of gags that the cast is given to do, with Brad Roller's Jahn assigned "normal guy reacting to insanity" duties. He does fairly well in that role, not overdoing the shock and being able to play Jahn as confident rather than overwhelmed when that fits the scene. He's a bit lucky in his material, as Laura Waddell often finds herself pushed from being the cute goofball to kind of annoying - she's actually at her funniest in the last segment where she's suddenly the least silly person in the room. The rest of the cast is, perhaps, a bit uneven, but Chenn for the most part has given the bigger assignments to the ones who can best handle them. Napoleon Ryan is especially good at spouting absurdity with a completely straight face, while Sherill Turner and Rachel Rath manage to bang out their antagonistic back-and-forth well enough for what we eventually learn about Risa and Collees to make sense. Paulie Rojas, meanwhile, manages to make her ethereal nymph someone the audience can fall for even while laughing at how she's just as exaggerated and off-kilter as all the other interviewees.

For a movie made on an extraordinarily tight budget, "Folklore" is put together quite snappily; it's obviously low budget, but it's just as obviously a low budget used well. By its nature, one may not laugh at absolutely every punchline, but most who find this movie will laugh at enough to count it as positive on the whole.

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originally posted: 02/14/12 15:27:19
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2012 Boston SciFi Film Festival For more in the 2012 Boston Sci-Fi Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

2/22/12 John Motter Love it. 5 stars
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Directed by
  Justin Calen Chenn

Written by
  Justin Calen Chenn

  Laura Waddell
  Brad Roller

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