“It’s one of those films that exists beyond labels, eschewing them in favor of creating a beast that is simultaneously hypnotic and aggravating.”
by Ken B.
With a camera as restless as one found in a Michael Bay film and a visual palette so colorful and idiosyncratic that it feels like Wes Anderson attempted to dabble in steampunk science fiction, Hooroo Jackson’s Aimy in a Cage is undeniably, unrepentantly in-your-face. I am told that Jackson adapted it from his own graphic novel, and learning this particular bit of information explains a lot. It’s one of those films that exists beyond labels, eschewing them in favor of creating a beast that is simultaneously hypnotic and aggravating. But for a debut feature, Jackson pulls it all off with a fair about of chutzpah.
The titular Aimy (Allisyn Ashley Arm) is a rambunctious teenage girl, who spends most of the day locked off in her bedroom, drawing, writing, and generally driving her irate grandmother (Terry Moore) insane (although she pretty much was already). The rest of Aimy’s eccentric family is growing tired of her as well, and so they organize for her to undergo an illegal and invasive procedure, which involves a mixture of lobotomy and electroshock therapy. Following the surgery, she is required to wear an oversized metal helmet, with enough wires and valves connecting up and down that the contraption almost resembles a cage (ahem). A further complication to the situation is that this is all happening against the backdrop of a fast-moving and lethal pandemic spreading the planet, as explained in a series of increasingly frantic news broadcasts from an anchor on an oscilloscopic television, meaning that as Aimy’s psyche is progressively damaged by the after-effects of the operation, the world around her is degenerating at an even faster rate, and something’s gotta give.
In any case, Jackson is laying his cards on the table here from frame one, and it takes about that long for one to determine whether or not they will get anything out of the 79 minutes which follow. I don’t like to make predictions, but I would guess that Aimy in a Cage will likely find an audience among admirers of cult classics – it has that kind of wackiness which is unquestionably apparent, but Jackson is mostly careful not to foster an environment of surrealism for surrealism’s sake – but of course, he doesn’t escape that all of the time, and there are indeed long stretches of film with plot-insignificant tangents (an alligator which is almost symbolic), characters (much of Aimy’s family), and scenery which frankly don’t exist for any other reasons than possibly unintentional self-aggrandizing. But it’s still an undoubtedly unique ride, which provides us with, among other things, scene transitions in the form of near-literal explosions of color and the sight of Crispin Glover playing a swindler dressed as a pimp. I mean, you don’t see that every day.