Jul 23, 2023
Skye Armenta, Nick Gatsby, Christopher James Taylor
The latest work of filmmaker Nick Gatsby announces itself as a ‘trip’, and it means it in the most stereotypical sense, every scene is perceived through a digital kaleidoscopic colour palette, and surreal images and plot threads are littered throughout.
The title ZAPPER! comes from the term given to the class of banana-laser-gun wielding stoner bounty hunters, who on this particular occasion are competing to collect four puzzle pieces that will earn them a mysterious treasure known as ‘The King’s Board’. This loose narrative is enough to propel the film through its early stages, and there is enough experimentation and intrigue to capture the imagination for at least a little while. There are clear nods to the films of Quentin Tarantino throughout, for instance, a scene parodying Pulp Fiction with a contract killer leaving his gun/banana exposed on the countertop whilst he retreats to the bathroom during a home invasion, however, in this case, our hapless hitman isn’t using the facilities, more he is brushing his teeth with his balaclava still draped over his mouth. This is about the breadth of the humour, further jokes don’t amount to much more than two static characters yelling, “Munch a cock!”, “No, you munch a cock!”. This is perhaps one of the reasons that the film runs out of steam before it even begins to run into its conclusion.
Another reason is that the filmmakers use every post-production trick they have at their disposal to assault the viewers’ senses in order to live up to the proclamation of this experience as a ‘trip’. There are moments where the images on screen are striking and effective: dandelion seeds spreading as the sky turns acid purple, a club scene so loud the characters need speech bubbles, and a captivating geometric neon night sky. But the constantly cycling colour grading that turns the whole frame from blue to purple to red to orange to yellow to green to blue again becomes tiring very quickly. And there are so many ideas being thrown at the wall with not enough of them sticking. Too often it feels like empty layering of ideas with no correlation.
Experimentation deserves credit, and whilst ZAPPER! does try to seek out new visual ideas, too much of it rests solely on the surface. Unfortunately, this is one stoner movie that feels half-baked.