[Chattanooga Film Festival] Review: We Can Promise You That FINGERS is One of the Strangest Movies You'll See This Year
Juan Ortiz has had a very base level of experience with film, performing miscellaneous tasks on films such as Away We Go and Tomorrowland, as well as handling director duties on a horror short from 2014 titled Jennifer Help Us. This makes it all the more surprising that in spite of a microbudget, he’s able to so deftly pull of such a complete feeling film with what will arguably be one of the most bizarre entries of 2019, Fingers. However, the most shocking element of Fingers is the film itself, as you will constantly find yourself looking around the room in disbelief, questioning whether what you’re watching unfold in front of you is actually occuring or if you are just the most high you have ever been.
I assure you, you’re not high. This movie is a full tilt bonanza into weird, peppered with actors that you’ll recognize from genre and fringe genre films, including Jeremy Gardner (The Battery) as a ski mask thug named Talk and Michael St. Michaels (The Greasy Strangler) as Fox, a dangerous man with a grudge. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves here though. The film focuses on Amanda, a woman who has a number of truly terrible phobias. We’re not talking fears that haunt her and make it rough to live, we’re talking about some strange and inherently racist and misanthropic fears that paint her as a down and out terrible person. For instance, at point in the movie, Amanda orders a dozen donuts and immediately throws them away because the cashier has a birthmark on her hand.
Yeah, she’s easily unlikable. It’s starting to affect her marriage, her fears are growing in their inconsistency and levels of strange, and her husband is struggling to cope with it. When a man at her work suddenly appears missing one of his fingers, Amanda is so disgusted that she leaves work in a flurried rush, thus prompting her husband to reach out to a therapist to try and help Amanda conquer her life altering problems. Attempting a form of immersion therapy, Dr. Scotty forces Amanda to meet Walter, who keeps losing fingers. While the world thinks that Walter is imagining the source of his dismemberment, Amanda decides to face her fears head on and by doing so finds herself in the middle of a strange world of crime.
Fingers has no problems being offensive but with every stroke of it’s affront, it’s with purpose. We need to hate Amanda so that by the time the film has wrapped, she actually has a full arc and we can resonate with it, even though it gets completely bonkers along the way. It’s not just that Amanda will strike some nerves with her misanthropic and problematic view of the world, it’s that the whacky almost Looney Tunes style balance of violence with Adult Swim levels of awkward humor don’t pull any punches in either lane.
Ortiz would fit in easily alongside masters of gonzo storytellers like Tim Heidecker and Jim Hosking. He deftly is able to make his world feel like it’s just out of step with our reality, which is exactly the vibe that makes this movie feel uncomfortable in the best way, like you don’t know whether to laugh or shake your head. His stark and empty environments help push the viewer even further out of their comfort zone, as it often feels like it’s just you and the characters living in this world. Strange juxtapositions of things like assault while jumping on a trampoline or violent battery in a lush, green abandoned junkyard-slash-trailer-park add to the recipe of this already bizarre concoction.
Jeremy Gardner is great, as always, with a stuttering comedic timing that’s near impeccable. His offbeat delivery of punchlines is yet another bullet point behind the writing and direction of the film, perfectly accentuating the disorienting nature of the beats of comedy in the film. Michael St. Michaels is also great, giving a strangely grounded performance for such an odd role, neatly distinguishing himself as a character with a distinct kind of professionalism in the absurd version of reality he exists in. The most praise needs to be given to Sabina Friedman-Seitz, who plays the nauseatingly neurotic Amanda, who captures mania in her face as well as the profound amount of clarity she finds by the credits, It’s her careful high-wire act between frenzied disgust and cathartic conquest that makes the movie carry an actual impact, a feel good cherry on top of a sundae made of ice cream, tar, ooze and yarn.
Fingers will not resonate with everyone. I can literally guarantee that. It’s fucking weird. With that being said, Ortiz absolutely knows what he’s doing and it’s exciting to see where his career will take him from here.