VIDEO PREMIERE: CITY OF REPTILES (DIR. TEN-HEADED SKELETON)
You already know Ten-Headed Skeleton even if you don’t think you know Ten-Headed Skeleton—that’s the recent alias-slash-identity-reinvention of L.A.’s Michael Nhat, the ferociously independent outsider artist/rapper/producer/and probably more, with recent musical output including the “Suffocate On Honey” 7″ and his earlier full-length Evil Doing. But City of Reptiles is everything Skeleton can do happening at once. It’s the first installment of a black-and-white arthouse horror comedy trilogy, written and directed and produced and scored by the Skeleton with a cast of local musicians and notables. (Including: Henry Mark, Walt Gorecki, Barrie Rose, a Halloween Swim Team reunion!)
Those of you up on your old school conspiracy theories will have already realized the reference to the age old legend (or is it?!) of a lost city of lizard people and their treasure buried deep beneath downtown L.A.. (And those of you who are just finding out? Maybe you’ll tread a bit more carefully from now on.) Reptiles is presented in super-crisp black-and-white—a reversal of noir’s murky aesthetic where things seen or unseen in the clear light of day seem even more uncertain—and follows Skeleton et al through skyscraper canyons and surface streets that run all the way to the horizon in search of the truth about the legend of the lizard people.
In contrast to these almost elegant scenes of the city: the smash-cut dialogue and Burroughs-style cut-up of a plot, where abject flashes of surrealism are delivered point-blank and straight-faced and the best jokes happen when nobody cracks a smile. The MacGuffin here is a swathe of disembodied human skin that flutters through the fringes of the film and occasionally smacking somebody in the face—proof of … something, if you can catch it. Skeleton cautions us that this isn’t exactly a Judd Apatow production—instead it lands closer to the most esoteric moments on Key & Peele or Kids In The Hall. Highly recommended for your quarantine watching pleasure.
Says Skeleton: “I’m a huge horror fan, but in the history of my catalog, I didn’t see a better genre for my first film than comedy. I’ve been writing comedy since 1997. I always wanted to make films. I was coerced into music. Music was and still is a hobby to me. I went to school for film but my friends who had studios convinced me I’m that really good basketball player in the sports movie that won’t play, then at the end says fuck it and joins. That’s why I put film on hold for music in my 20s and 30s. In 2001, I told myself, ‘I’m only doing music until I’m 40.’ And now that I’m at that point, I’m simply following a plan I set up in 2001.”