By Michael Seymour Blake
I've seen a lot of so-bad-they’re-good movies. Creating Rem Lezar ain’t one of them. It lives in a distant fairyland we can only glimpse in our wackiest dreams. A fairyland so wholesome, so innocent, and so strange that if given access to it during our waking life we would be spaghettified. Luckily, director Scott Zakarin is a more than capable guide.
I first saw this mind-altering journey on YouTube many years ago. The upload, from a deteriorated VHS no doubt, was riddled with dropout, warping, fading, and missing scenes. Despite these defects, I fell in love. I’m usually not into musicals, but this one knocks it outta the park. Straight up into space. No, some place even higher. There’s not one flop among the bunch. Whether the kids are alone in the bedroom with a strange man in spandex, or wandering around Manhattan with a strange man in spandex, or entering the woods alone with a strange man in spandex, there’s a catchy song to fill our hearts. Each number is paradoxically wince-worthy and the best thing I’ve ever heard. I can’t explain it more than that. Bravo to composer Mark Mulé.
I made it my mission to get a copy.
Finding the film wasn’t too difficult. The real problem came down to money. The cheapest I’d seen it for was $90 bucks, and that just ain’t within my reach. So I waited. And waited. And waited. And the price went up. And up. And up higher. At one point they were going for $250. I had this baby on my eBay watchlist forever.
Then one day I was just sittin’ around dreaming of a dream when BOOM! Found Footage Festival releases a Blu-ray. My heroes. I scooped it up and watched it for what felt like the first time. A fantasy come true.
The movie follows Ashlee and Zack (Courtney Kernaghan, Jonathan Goch), two daydreaming kids who discover they share the same blue-haired imaginary/non-imaginary friend named Rem Lezar (Jack Mulcahy). Their parents and teachers are fed up, demanding they live in the real world. But the kids are fed up with the “real world,” each lashing out in their own way. After a bumpy start (Zack’s a bit of a misogynist), they form a lightning-fast friendship and run away together to build their strange dream-man in an abandoned cabin. How do they build him? By using mysteriously-obtained mannequin parts of course! (Seeing Zack and Ashlee with the disassembled pieces triggered flashbacks to 1991’s Body Parts.) The power of their imagination brings Rem Lezar to life and the trio celebrate his newfound existence. There’s just one problem. The children forgot to add his symbol, a golden infinity sign called the Quixotic Medallion, to the mannequin. Without it, Rem Lezar will disappear forever come nightfall. A disembodied pixelated face named Vorock (played by Zakarin himself) has it. He says it’s hidden at the highest point that the mind could go, yet claims it remains within reach. Full of passion, song, and love, the threesome wander around New York trying to find the precious insignia before the sun goes down.
It’s hard to point out what makes Creating Rem Lezar so much more than a novelty watch. It’s not just the songs (which you’ll be singing for the rest of your life) or the bold blue leotard or the even bolder blue curly locks of rockin’ hair (and eyebrows). I think it may have something to do with the consistently odd choices made every step of the way. Odd choices made only odder because they’re presented through a lens of pure, childlike innocence. This obliviousness, for lack of a better word, allows for some truly astounding stuff. I don’t want to give too much away because this movie should be experienced as fresh as possible.
At one point, Rem Lezar sings a passionate song to a child in the woods. They’re alone, isolated. He gently brushes her cheek. They stare into each other’s eyes. Then, as he takes her into his arms, there’s a shocking second where it seems like they’re about to kiss (they don’t of course). It’s gross and weird and hilarious, but there’s no wink to the audience, no indication anyone in the production picked up on the overt creepiness of it all. You’ll scream in horror but also be… almost charmed by it?
The opening credits are phenomenal. Zack gets sent to the principal’s office for daydreaming. He exits the classroom and ambles down endless, desolate hallways as he sings the bittersweet “Dreaming of a Dream,” while his head tilts at various awkward angles. Suddenly, his prepubescent voice is joined by a deep baritone for a dual “whooaa.” Now there’s a dark figure lurking behind Zack as Silent-Hill-style mist fills the halls. Seconds later, the figure’s gone and the halls are clear again. It leaves you reeling. But wait, the figure’s back in the next cut, along with the mist. “Come on and take my hand,” the figure croons. (We all know this figure is Rem Lezar, yet it doesn’t assuage our sense of dread.)
My favorite part of the sequence is when Rem, still veiled within the mist, simply stops walking behind Zack and just looms there as the camera pulls away. My mental child-endangerment alarms were sounding, big time. Eventually we enter what I believe to be a fantasy where Zack imagines Rem giving his teacher a talking/singing to: “Part of the joy that I get from this boy is his innocent laugh and his style, come take another look.” It’s all in slow motion and a blurred trail of Rem’s movements lingers behind him—a real Bruce Lee Fists of Fury moment.
The hallway odyssey is followed by a scene where Zack sets up the principal (Zakarin’s actual childhood principal, in fact) by asking an innocuous question only to follow it up with a surprise verbal assault that leaves the highest-ranking administrator speechless. It’s inexplicable. Zack would make a good movie mobster.
So much happens in the short runtime. The gang dances with street toughs, leisurely wanders around despite their grave time constraints (they even go for a nice boat ride), and at one point, splits into two different realities. It’s packed with bonkers logic and semi-incoherence. And joining us through it all is Mulcahy’s hypnotizingly thick neck.
I was surprised to see the sheer number of PhDs who worked on this movie in some way or another (watch for them in the ending credits). There are a few scenes that wax philosophical I suppose. Did the PhDs create the mythology of Rem and Vorock or something? It’s possible…
Vorock represents our nightmares. But on a grander scale, he is the fear and anxiety we all carry inside. Give into your inner Vorock, and you will wither away. Fight against him, and you risk giving into hate (it’s a disease... don’t catch it). On the other side stands Rem Lezar. Beyond representing our dreams, Rem is our hopes, passions, and concepts of love. With our inner Rem’s help, we can attain a deeper understanding of human nature, an expansion of perception. We can learn the power of acceptance. When we befriend our Vorocks, they lose much of their hold over us. They’ll never disappear, but they’ll become manageable. Our inner Rem can teach us that the darker parts of our psyches offer opportunities for growth, and may even help us discover the things that are most meaningful to us in life.
Rem and Vorock start at the beginning and end there too. We can’t fully be rid of either. They are as infinite as the Quixotic Medallion. As infinite as my love for this movie.
Michael Seymour Blake writes easy breezy beautiful unpretentious movie reviews. A working class cinema lover. Follow him on instagram: @michaelseymourblake or visit his often-neglected website: michaelsblake.com
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