The third feature from Brooklyn-based Zach Clark, Vacation! is a psychological study wrapped up in a girls-will-be-girls beach-party movie and given a post-post-punk spin. Nerdy Sugar (Maggie Ross) invites her old college friends -- butch-glam superbabe Dee-Dee (Melodie Sisk), prudish schoolteacher Donna (Trieste Kelly Dunn), and lascivious bad girl Lorelai (Lydia Hyslop) -- to join her for a week at a beach house in North Carolina. The quartet have a shared history but seemingly little in common in the present; once playing Jersey Shore loses its ironic appeal, boredom and frustration set in. Their solution is to party even harder, with disastrous consequences.
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The narrative doesn't arc so much as slope down at a 45 degree angle -- from the high of innocent fun to the depths of absolute moral vacuity -- with a break in the dead center for a visually stunning, perfectly weird acid trip scene, something like an excerpt from Inland Empire's would-be nautically themed sequel.
Between his previous film, Modern Love Is Automatic, and Vacation!, Clark seems to be developing a signature style of straight camp -- as in both hetero and deadpan. Early scenes wink at male fantasies (and/or movie articulations of those fantasies) of what happens when girls get together without men (bicurious hot-tubbing, cotton-panty dance parties). This satirical spin falls away in Vacation!'s back half, replaced by a not-quite-convincingly-serious inquiry into the blurry line between self-destruction and sociopathy, self-interest and evil. But the psychedelic nightmare sequence alone is a solid testament to Clark's singular aesthetic.