Slamdance 2014: ROVER (or Beyond Human: The Venusian Future and the Return of the Next Level) Review


Film Pulse Score

DIRECTED by Tony Blahd                                                  Film Pulse Score:  6/10

Writer/Director Tony Blahd’s debut narrative feature, Rover (or Beyond Human: The Venusian Future and the Return of the Next Level), is a strange beast…a strange beast with an extremely long title. It happens to be a film within a film type deal with the film being based on a vision; the vision itself centers around the production of a film with the intent of delivering the message of said vision – the prophecy of the Venusian future. Like I said – a strange beast…but simple enough.

The film (based on a vision of a film within a film) centers around a down-and-out cult of sorts headquartered inside a dilapidated 19th Century church in Bushwick. This so-called vision comes to the cult’s visionary leader, Dave (Liam Torres), in a dream, compelled to educate the world of Randall and the Venusian Future, Dave quickly writes up a rough screenplay, enlisting the remaining cult followers to the film’s various roles.

Only problem being that neither Dave nor the fellow cult members know a thing when it comes to film production, so they place a Craigslist ad which is quickly answered by an unsatisfied, screenplay-reading intern by the name of Mark (Jonathan Randall Silver), who quickly signs onto the project. Production roles are promptly delegated, roles are cast and the once-fledgling cult is well on their way to B-movie cult classic status.

Blahd’s Rover is an unabashed attempt at indie, sci-fi cult classic status through equal parts awkward and quirk, always flirting but frustratingly never ascending but not for lack of trying. Full of awkward pauses, embarrassing exchanges and complete breakdowns in social interactions, Rover does a decent job of delivering the goods when it comes to quirk. Look no further than the cult’s exclusive diet of hot dogs, applesauce and Georgi vodka by the jug full, but ultimately the laughs are too few and far between. There is talent here, don’t get me wrong and within time I feel Blahd will deliver a fully-realized vision of creative comedy. Rover feels more like a dry-run, unfortunately.

Underneath the heavy layer of indie-quirk-awkward lies a film dealing (rather lightly) with topics like faith, relationships, marriage, destiny and acceptance. Blahd’s debut is a rather entertaining light-hearted comedy from a collective of creative people basking in the uncomfortable beauty of B-movie effects and production values, creating a film about a vision within a dream about a film that, oddly enough, travels down some interesting avenues.