Those familiar with the music released over the last decade by ADULT. (the period is part of the name) will be happy — or possibly not — to know that the intently mysterious Detroit duo has now produced a movie, an exceedingly creepy 40-minute horror film called "Decampment."
It's not playing in a theatre near you. It's not playing anywhere, in the usual sense. Since the group's two members — Adam Lee Miller and Nicola Kuperus — have decided to provide a live soundtrack at all screenings of the picture, it's only been shown twice so far: once at the Detroit Institute of Arts last spring and once, earlier this month, at Anthology Film Archives in New York. (They'll be presenting it next at the Silent Movie Theatre in Los Angeles on November 18.)
Anthology's East Village theatre was filled largely with students, it appeared. After a staffer's earnest warning to those in the front rows that what was about to transpire would be quite loud, the lights went down and Miller and Kuperus slipped out onstage and took their places behind two modest banks of synthesizers, one on each side of the screen. (They would play in darkness throughout the film, recalling such shadow-dwellers of the past as Pink Floyd and Tangerine Dream.) Then the picture began, and the duo set to work.
Their music is a species of thundery electro-squall that's highly reminiscent of such past noise masters as Fad Gadget, Cabaret Voltaire and Throbbing Gristle (whose onetime leader, Genesis P-Orridge, now resident in New York, turned up for the Anthology show). Miller cites all of these groups as influences, along with Howard Shore, Suicide and the Italian gore-movie titans Fabio Frizzi and Goblin. If it need be said, you either love this sort of thing or you hate it very deeply. (I tend to like it.) Either way, it's hard to deny that when merged with the chilly visuals of "Decampment," ADULT.'s music becomes part of a larger and much eerier experience.
The film's imagery grew out of Kuperus' uncanny art photography — meticulously staged tableaux featuring dead women in unlikely environments, often in the vicinity of vintage cars. (You have to see it, really.) The story is murky and unsettling, the proceedings wordless. The focus is on five spooky, crimson-lipped women in black high heels and business suits; heightening the air of obscure menace, their faces are generally cropped out of the frame. They are much concerned with a strange yellow book with a witchy-looking symbol on its cover. They have a van stocked with axes and black butcher aprons. A couple of other women are also on hand, but not for long. There's quite a bit of arterial leakage.
The film's manner is one of deadpan naturalism, which sharply sets off its most striking images: a body surrounded by a spreading lake of hot-pink liquid, a book oozing blood from its pages, a knife to the head. There are all kinds of fright-flick echoes, from Argento and Bava to "The Blair Witch Project," but the picture's atmosphere of home-brewed dread is very much its own.
The "Decampment" soundtrack, packaged with several of Kuperus' photographs, is available on three seven-inch records from the ADULT. Web site. The movie itself, however, will not be turning up in the great Amazon DVD bin anytime soon. "My current distribution plans," Miller said in a recent e-mail, "are to 'Crispin-Glover' it" — a reference to "the genius of how Crispin Glover started this idea of taking his own films around, and that is the only way one can see them." In the age of instant Internet access, he said, "I think that is a great thing."
So "Decampment" may be coming to a theatre near you, who knows? Just not soon, probably. It's worth a wait, though.
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