In film, as with music, you can aim for broader appeal, so as to achieve mass saturation, or you can target a niche audience, and really hammer it home with that group. With APPLECART, Dustin Wayde Mills tackles topics usually embraced more in the broader approach, but does so with an artistry aimed at an upper class exploitation. Grindarthouse, if you will.
Presented as a series of vignettes, APPLECART tells four stories that are very different but told in one set fashion. Combining black and white photography, silent film with a sitcom style laugh track sounds like it would be a train wreck. And being able to present tone and emotion in a silent film would be difficult enough, but in this movie, all the actors are clad in masks. Despite these potential drawbacks, Mills and crew do their best with the medium and it allows it to be all the more haunting and thought provoking.
Addressing such general themes as unrequited adoration, young love, rejection, and jealousy, APPLECART also throws in elder abuse, kidnapping, and religious oppression to stew on. And with the silent drama, we get a little brutality, to keep the exploitation nuts happy, along with plenty of nudity and sexuality. Mills isn’t afraid to show the nude form on screen, and his cast isn’t shy either, but they are able to use it push the story forward, sometimes utilizing it to steer away from the erotic and more towards the disturbing.
The utilization of the masks allowed for the actors involved to play very different characters in several of the vignettes. Dave Parker, Haley Jay Madison, and Josh Miller showed a lot of range using just their physicality, pantomiming without approaching the level of absurd. But the two most haunting performances were by Allison Egan in “The Sleepover” as the rejected mother and Erin R. Ryan in “Dad” as the daughter facing a pregnancy scare while trying to appease her religious father. Both of their performances leave indelible marks on your psyche as you feel their silent pain.
While not for everyone, APPLECART does a wonderful job of addressing its themes and fully embracing its chosen medium. If you are in the mood for something that both entices, disturbs, and sticks with you, rather than spending 5 hours with a Lars Von Trier film, you should track down APPLECART.
The NSFW trailer: