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Heads will melt: A first look at Animal Collective's 'Oddsac'

March 23, 2010 |  2:14 pm


“I’m going to be so sick from this,” said one cringing fan at the L.A. debut of Animal Collective’s new film project, “Oddsac.” “All I’ve had to eat today is wine, beer and candy corn.”

That’s actually a perfectly apt pre-game diet to take in “Oddsac,” a new collaboration between the woozy art-pop band and director Danny Perez. If you’ve ever wished that David Lynch would re-make the videotape in “The Ring” that kills anyone who watches it, “Oddsac” will tide you over until that terrifying day.

Perez and the band produced “Oddsac” commensurately with the Collective’s album “Strawberry Jam” and its 2009 commercial breakthrough “Merriweather Post Pavilion,” but it’s born of completely different impulses than those hook-centric records. The swag for sale in the lobby, which depicts gruesome melting heads and the like, gave a better clue of what was in store. “Oddsac” is a gut-bucket horror flick filleted with Impressionist filters and sound collages that veer from the creepily gorgeous to the indulgently repellent.

“This is an accurate expression of what it felt like to make this,” Perez said before introducing the film. One can’t argue with reasoning like that. And there is a certain coherence to “Oddsac’s” Dario Argento-worthy  slasher sequences and brooding stills of rock fields and empty woods. It takes the chin-scratching logic of a high-camp fright flick like “Pieces” and wrings a kind of YouTube-era pastiche effect from it.

Without giving much away, the few key set pieces revolve around the classic theme of pretty girls being stalked by gnarly monsters in open spaces. Sometimes, the creature is a paint-dripping pagan fish-beast; other times, it’s a sad, balding vampire; and a generally threatening ooze permeates the whole thing. Marshmallows are used to hellish effect, and a comically Freudian sexuality leavens the film’s occasional truly unnerving visual twitches. If you can forgive a few redundant clips of ambient swirls and static, the end result is a bleakly funny and seriously accomplished riff on a generational reflex to laugh at anything that scares us.

Musically, there are snatches of recognizable Animal Collective tunes -- some lovely pastoral folk here, some synthesized wonkiness and shroom-casualty harmonies there -- but they’re all in service of the visuals and quickly dissolve into tangled, evocative sound design. First-time fans of “My Girls” won’t be entirely at sea, but will probably wonder, as one fan did during the Q&A session afterward, “what were you on when you made this?”

As it turns out, nothing. This time. “I think it’d be funny if people listened to the soundtrack like they would listen to NPR or something,“ Perez said. “Like you’re just doing laundry and you turn around and there’s this melting head behind you.”

-- August Brown

Photo by Katherine Sheehan