Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Rufus – review

Director: Dave Schultz

Release date: 2012

Contains Spoilers

Rufus is a film I have had my eye on for a while. I finally found the film on Canadian DVD, indeed the film is Canadian in origin (with an English lead) but has been slow getting a wider release.

Perhaps that is down to the fact that this is much less a horror than it is a drama. It actually looks into the subject of the outsider, a favourite of the vampire genre as that is a main theme that runs through Dracula. However, the seminal novel played on fear of the outsider, this is more contemplative.

Louise and Rufus
The film begins with credits in which we just see Rufus (Rory J. Saper). As the blue skies turn to frost we realise he is sat before a window. As the film starts proper he and an elderly lady, Louise (Christina Jastrzembska, the Twilight Saga: New Moon), get off a bus in the middle of nowhere, it appears. He asks her why there and she says that she can go no further and implores him to fit in. She steps into the road in front of a truck. Her blood splatters him and we see his tongue tentatively taste some from the corner of his mouth.

David James Elliott as Hugh
Hugh Wade (David James Elliott) is the top cop in a two cop town. When he arrives at the scene his deputy, Chet (Tom Carey), tells him what apparently happened and directs him to Rufus – warning him that the young man stinks. Rufus gives his forename (he has an English accent) but says nothing else. Hugh drives him to town, and to underline the fact that the boy stinks tells him to crack a window. He takes Rufus to his home, something his wife, Jennifer (Kelly Rowan), is not enthusiastic about. Later we find that they had a son, about Rufus’ apparent age, who died in a handgun accident and this has caused a marital rift.

Merritt Patterson as Tracy
Rufus is sent for a bath but discovered an hour later just lying in it, in his clothes. Hugh discovers from the local vet (where he has stored Louise’s body) that she had two scars and the vet suspects she might have been lobotomised – though he is no coroner as he points out. The girl who lives over the street from Hugh and Jennifer, Tracy (Merritt Patterson), speaks to Rufus who is stood in a tree. He drops the great height with no ill effect and notices she wears pj’s and bunny slippers. She invites him over, tells him to stand behind an invisible line and orders him to strip as she does too. When he hasn’t moved towards her she says most boys would have already crossed the line but, he explains, she told him not to. She touches his chest and says he is cold and she can’t feel his heart. Its on the other side he says – Jennifer later discovers he has situs inversus (mirror organs).

Kim Coates as Van Dusen
The fact that Tracy is so brazen with him might seem odd but the whole film moves reactions just slightly off kilter in a way that works because the skewed nature is consistent. As things progress we meet Aaron Van Dusen (Kim Coates, The Dresden Files & Dracula the Series) a vampire hunter – but not your normal one. He works for a pharmaceutical company who Rufus escaped from with the help of Louise (and several other institutionalised individuals) decades before. He wants to take their “property” back. At one point, looking at a model kit of a bomber plane, Rufus mentions the factory in Seattle where they were built as though he was there. When Jennifer says that the war was 70 years before he says it didn’t seem so long. Indeed we discover that his age is unknown but he is at least over 100 and time is perceived differently by him.

Rufus attacks
Tracey discovers the truth of him when an ex-boyfriend, Chet (Tom Carey), tries to force himself on her and Rufus defends her. He grows fangs and claws and growls in a bestial manner. Instead of fearing him she accepts him almost immediately. Chet – who survives because Tracy whacks Rufus with a pipe – also starts to accept him and thus is confronted with his own homosexuality and this tension (his feelings versus the societal norm in a small town) is a major tension in the film. Rufus does heal the claw wound on Chet’s face with his blood and it is the blood's restorative qualities that Van Dusen wants and which kept Louise younger than she actually was. Beyond the need for blood (which causes him to vomit if he eats anything other than bloody meat) he reflects, can go out in sunlight but is physically enhanced. He is said to be a one off (by Van Dusen), a freak of nature.

I was struck as I watched the film by a similarity, tonally perhaps, of the classic film The Man Who Fell to Earth. This was probably enhanced by Rory J. Saper’s performance of the outsider that seemed so lost, so naive and innocent (in many ways) that it reminded me of Bowie’s performance in the afore mentioned film. Rufus is socially inept and illiterate, his accent makes him seem foreign to those around him. He really did make you think of the outsider; he became an accepted cuckoo in the nest who could cause a final confrontation of grief and allow healing to occur, he was attractive to some and yet reviled because of the attraction and he was there to be exploited by an uncaring capitalism (the file we see has photos of him being vivisected whilst awake, aware and screaming). Even when he attacked you had sympathy – he attacks a man who tried to sexually assault him and says the man selected himself and yet, as we think about it, he deliberately put himself into the position of being selected and that belies the naivety somewhat. The film is perhaps ponderous because it wants to explore these relationships and themes but it is Saper who pushes you along, preventing that ponderousness from becoming laborious. The skewed feeling allowed the exploration to occur outside the bounds of normal reaction and felt right in film, which is a credit to the script.

Rufus is a fine film and it deserves much more attention than it has thus far. 7.5 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.

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