When I heard the title The Rambler, Calvin Reeder’s 2008 short film, my mind shot to the familiars: Johnny Appleseed, John Henry, and Davy Crockett. I thought of someone who braved new frontiers and was a badass. Even with its ramshackle opening sequence—in which the eponymous Rambler, who is played by Reeder, hitchhikes out West with a guitar and shades—I still believed my first impressions were on the right track. But with each passing minute the film becomes more and more bizarre. Almost right away the Rambler with an unknown past, mysterious aurora, and deadpan demeanor is thrown smack dab in strangeness. The first man to give him a lift is a mummy-fancying mad scientist who invented a device to record dreams to VHS. Reeder climbs in the car, answers evasively, never removes his sunglasses, never removes his hat, and keeps rambling on while the peculiarities unfolds.
The Rambler is shot on expired 16 mm film stock, which makes the landscapes lush and the gore gross. Like I said, with each passing minute the storyline unravels and plays into excess. At the end of the day, this Rambler isn’t all that different from the other ramblers. But unlike their world, his tries every bat shit thing to shake his cool, including one of the longest and most bizarre sex/vomit scenes ever.
Director Calvin Reeder’s work is a mix of underground shock horror and existential atmosphere. He made a name for himself with the short films Piledriver and Little Farm, which screened at the 2007 Sundance Film Festival. The Rambler appeared at the Festival the following year. His feature debut, The Oregonian, divided Sundance Film Festival audiences in 2011 just as his shorts had before. Reeder specializes in turning lo-fi splatter pics into art films by meshing high-concept thought and design with genre story lines. His newest film is a feature version of The Rambler starring Dermot Mulroney as the titular character. The feature played Sundance and SXSW this year and is out now in limited release and on DVD/VOD on June 25.
Jeffrey Bowers is a tall mustached guy from Ohio who's seen too many weird movies. He currently lives in Brooklyn, working as an art and film curator. He is a programmer at the Hamptons International Film Festival and screens for the Tribeca Film Festival. He also self-publishes a super fancy mixed-media art serial called PRISM index.
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