Trevor Juenger’s uncompromising micro-budget, art-house horror gem, Coyote, paints a relentlessly grim portrait of a man (Bill Oberst Jr.) whose sanity is slowly being eroded by insomnia. As he slides into a world where reality and hallucination become inseparable he finds himself gripped by a deepening sense of paranoia that drives him to commit terrible acts of violence.
Imagine Henry Portrait of a Serial Killer if David Cronenberg and David Lynch had co-directed it. That should give you a good idea of where Coyote is coming from. It shares both the former auteur’s early fascination with body horror (just wait until you see the knife trick) and the latter’s knack for capturing the world as reflected in a warped and damaged mirror. The end result is a dark and troubling downward spiral into madness and murder as Bill, a struggling writer whose life has become a sleep-deprived waking nightmare, finds himself rapidly losing his shit in spectacular fashion.
In the past I’ve referred to Bill Oberst Jr. as the Takashi Miike of the independent horror scene. His work ethic is as insane as the fractured psyches of the majority of the characters he portrays. A quick glance at his resume on IMDB reveals that since 2010 he has appeared in approximately 15 movies per year. He brings to Coyote the customary intensity that has made him the go-to guy for film-makers who are looking for someone to play a convincing psychopath. With his distinctive scarred features (the result of a childhood biking accident), piercing eyes and unique physique (his torso is nearly twice the average length for a male his height) it’s almost like he was custom built in some sort of nightmare laboratory in an attempt to create the perfect bad guy. His performance here is typically unhinged and fearless. As the movie progresses, becoming increasingly unnerving as it goes, Bill is never less than 100% convincing as a man rapidly losing his marbles and becoming increasingly dangerous as each one rolls down the drain. It’s the kind of committed performance that makes the viewer want to check out more of an actor's work (something I fully intend to do).
Something else that struck me about Coyote was the effectiveness of its imagery. This movie is from start to finish one of the most disturbing head trips in recent memory. One scene features a video camera containing a vagina which is then, um, digitally penetrated by our “hero”. That should give you an idea of the kind of twisted lunacy to expect here. The movie’s low budget is at times apparent but nonetheless Juenger’s often surreal vision emerges almost untarnished and the end result is a wonderfully effective and phantasmagorical descent into madness that sheds all attempts at narrative coherence towards the end in favour of a fierce barrage of bleak unpleasantness. Supporting the visuals is a wonderfully effective electronic score that underpins the onscreen horrors with an entirely effective and unsettling malevolence.
The only negative thing I can say about Coyote is that its appeal is likely to be a very niche one which isn't really the film-maker's fault as they obviously didn't set out to create something with mass appeal. It accomplishes what it sets out to do and does so with no concessions. Gruelling from start to finish I imagine it will find a welcoming audience among the growing army of horror fans whose preferences lean in the direction of independent fare with strong ideas over the blandness of a Hollywood that has transformed itself into a factory only capable of churning out mostly insipid sequels and remakes. If you don’t mind low-budget horror with an art-house mentality Coyote is an excellent example of that sort of thing done very well. Trevor Juenger is a name worth watching.
Bill Oberst Jr. was kind enough to provide us with a 90 second clip from Coyote to provide our readers with a taste of the sort of nasty thrills it has to offer.