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  Seven Stages to Achieve Eternal Bliss by Passing Through the Gateway Chosen by the Holy Storsh Do You Follow?
Year: 2018
Director: Vivieno Caldinelli
Stars: Taika Waititi, Rhea Seehorn, Dan Harmon, Kate Micucci, Matt Jones, Sam Huntington, Brian Posehn, Mindy Sterling, Mark McKinney, Josh Brener, Maria Bamford, Ryan Simpkins, Lilan Bowden, Craig Cackowski, Britney Young, Dana Gould, J. Lee
Genre: Horror, ComedyBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Claire (Kate Micucci) and her boyfriend from her hometown Phil (Sam Huntington) have moved to the big smoke, Los Angeles to be exact, to start a new job and make something of their lives. Claire is in public relations and advertising, and Phil is... well, he's unemployed right now, but he is getting there as far as securing a job goes, he is certainly thinking about it very hard, which is a good sign, he believes. But one night something unexpected happens in their new apartment: someone breaks in and starts yelling "Will you yield?!" while tap dancing, eventually smashing his way into the bathroom where Claire is and jumping into the bathtub, whereupon he produces a large steak knife and slashes open his own throat. There is a very good reason for this, well, a reason anyway...

Even if this movie featured a cast of complete unknowns, rather than familiar faces from the comedy scene, you would have to say it was a very Los Angelean movie, especially in its sense of humour. If you're wondering, the motive that chap at the beginning had an apparent suicidal breakdown was that he was a member of the cult of Storsh, led by the titular prophet who was played by film director Taika Waititi, though not for very long, so don't get your hopes up for much in the way of What We Do in the Shadows horror comedy. But this charismatic leader has persuaded a bunch of blindly faithful followers to kill themselves to attain eternal enlightenment, like the lighter side of the Heaven's Gate suicide cult of the nineteen-nineties. Assuming you could find a laugh there.

What Seven Stages was not, was focused, getting distracted throughout by various bits of business before tying it all together in somewhat messy style by the denouement. It was brightly played, with everyone quite some distance from taking it seriously, but mostly director Vivieno Caldinelli corralled his enthusiastic cast into such subplots as a political campaign Claire is working on (for adulterous candidate Rhea Seehorn, best known for TV drama Better Call Saul) and Community and Rick & Morty creator Dan Harmon as a clueless cop investigating the deaths who Claire tags along by persuading him she can get his action movie script to Wesley Snipes. All the while, the film made merry with the idea that people killing themselves was a hilarious notion should you repeat it often enough.

It was highly doubtful that this film would tip anyone over the edge, but it was a little unsettling to see so many characters die by their own hand with the purpose of making us laugh, so bear that in mind. It was too blithely idiotic to be offensive, deliberately so, but it did play out as watching folks make terrible life choices for ninety minutes, be that the self-murder because a cult leader told them to, or, say, Phil's decision to make needlessly detailed birdhouses instead of getting that job he promised his girlfriend he was looking for, but wasn't looking too closely. Every so often this would be daft enough to make you chuckle, nothing roll around hilarious, but the energy of the actors, many of them comedians, carried it substantially even if you were wondering when it would pull itself together and stop being so all over the place. The answer to that was, it didn't and it didn't really care to: if that was acceptable for you in a horror comedy then you wouldn't have a problem with most of it. Music by Joe Wong.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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