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.
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.
Vacation! screens one night only in Los Angeles, Saturday, July 9, at 7pm at the Sunset 5, as part of Outfest. More info at Outfest.org.
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