Amy (Everson) suffers lingering psychological effects from a sexual trauma, which is in the past and unspecified. Since then, she can’t sleep or find peace, has trouble separating dreams and reality, and harbors a flourishing trove of revenge fantasies. Amy is an artist in northern California, who works with fabrics and other elements from pop culture to create bodysuits with prominent sexual genitalia. She regards her work as a response to rape culture and society’s objectification of women. She dons this garb as though it were the costume of a superhero that infuses her with strength and courage, and goes for outings among the redwoods with her long felt penis dangling between her legs. The tone is ominous rather than mollifying.
Felt is a psychological horror story, co-written with the director by Amy Everson, who also stars as Amy. An artist in real life, Everson has based Felt’s story on personal experience. Her screen presence is wraithlike yet deliberate, projecting a nonprofessional demeanor that’s nevertheless consumed with ideas. Her visceral performance earned Everson the Next Wave Best Actress Award at last fall’s Fantastic Fest, where the film premiered to wide acclaim.
Filmed in a jagged, unsweetened style, Felt also advances the story through the use of lots of jump cuts which enhance the film’s sense of waking dreams. Director/cinematographer/co-editor and co-writer Jason Banker (Toad Road, for which Banker received the Jury Best Director Award at the 2012 Fantasia Film Festival) expertly ramps up the film’s sense of dread as it becomes increasingly clear that Amy’s growing self-empowerment is also accompanied by seriously vengeful impulses. Soon, she meets Kenny (Audley), a guy she seems to like, and lets her guard down to a small degree. Yet we fear what might happen when she invites Kenny out to the woods for her version of cosplay.
Provocative though it is, Felt literally wears its ideas on its sleeves. Small speeches about sexual objectification and rape culture frequently penetrate the film’s intentionally grotty veneer, telling us things that it might be better off showing us. Like many subjects of abuse, the victim often becomes an abuser, too, in later life. Sadly, Felt directs some of its venom toward the viewers, who serve as unwitting bystanders.
See “Under the Skin,” July 17, for an interview with the filmmakers.
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