In 1986 there was Top Gun. But there was also Blue Velvet. One film spoke to the mid-80s as an anthem. The other peeled back the layers of pretense to expose the underbelly. At the time, Blue Velvet was passed around like a mystical secret. It blew our minds. We had grown so accustomed to the success-driven yuppie “greed is good” culture of shoulder pads, Lacoste crocodiles, and investment portfolios. The Reagan era wanted an America like Top Gun exemplified. It had to eventually reconcile with the America that Blue Velvet knew was lurking within. Great art can shatter the illusion of who we like to think we are while living through our complicated history.
Spree is a film that speaks to 2020 in a way it probably doesn’t want to be spoken to. To do this, the filmmakers had to implement the cinematic language of our time. It could not be a traditional film — it had to employ all of the ways we display ourselves, capture our images, and tell stories that are sometimes kind of true but mostly not.
Spree follows in the tradition of Dr. Strangelove, Network, Robocop (which lampooned Reagan-era ultra military), and of course, Blue Velvet. You might not recognize immediately what is so disturbing about the era we’re living through because you’re likely focused on the overriding evil that is at the top of the food chain. But we are also at an inflection point of recognition of just how bizarre our alternate, virtual realities are — how we’re manipulated by them, what it is doing to our collective psyche. The genius of Spree is how funny and tragic it is all at once and so perfectly attuned to 2020.
We were excited to have the chance to talk to the writers and the director Eugene Kotlyarenko and Gene McHugh about the process of making the film, what it was like to release such a dark (but funny) horror film at a time when audiences may not be quite ready to go there. We talk about the trends and tendencies the film depicts and comments on, what it was like making it, and what films they were influenced by.
Spree is one of the best films of the year, one of the best written screenplays, and features one of the best lead performances in Joe Keery. If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend it (with the caveat that it’s punctuated with quick flashes of the old ultraviolence and you have to be down for that).
Here is our podcast. We recorded it as a video but the video looked a little wonky so we’re going to just feature the audio. Have a listen!