In its first 10 minutes, David Zellner’s Kid-Thing manages to evoke both Michelangelo Frammartino’s Le Quattro Volte—the near-silent 2010 film starring a rambunctious pack of goats—and the best of early Beavis and Butt-Head episodes. We see an ailing, wild-haired man on a desolate patch of California farmland, glumly milking a calf; seconds later, we see his daughter, a freckled, sulky blonde of about 10, nonchalantly trashing his shed. You may find yourself shrieking “Yyyyyes!” in Beavis-esque exaltation as she knocks half his book collection to the ground, toys around with a gas mask and prank-calls AAA. Annie (Sydney Aguirre) is a loner, the product of drunken neglect—her father, Marvin (Nathan Zellner, who also serves as producer/cinematographer), tends to sleep off hangovers until dusk. But with paint guns, firecrackers and long stretches of both forest and industrial wasteland at her disposal, abandonment can be kind of fun. (It’s only later that you realize one of the books Annie mishandled is How to Survive AIDS, the one hint as to how she and Marvin ended up this way). As a story, Kid-Thing is a conventional mean-kid-finds-redemption tale, though it is both less preachy and more unnerving than Harmony Korine’s Gummo, which emphatically withheld redemption from its drug-addled deadbeats. Annie stumbles upon a witchy-voiced old lady (Susan Tyrrell) trapped in a well, whose cries for help test her morality. (Tyrrell’s voice-only performance is the sole overwrought one here). But the cruel imagery—paint-splattered cow skulls, a hand-squashed pupa, a grown man ripping his own tooth out—and swirling, nightmarish score are so vivid and hypnotic, and the acting and direction so free of condescension, that one emerges from Kid-Thing genuinely disturbed.
David ZellnerSydney Aguirre, Susan Tyrrell, Nathan Zellne, David ZellnerDavid Zellner