I’ve been a big fan of Richard Dutcher over the years. I loved God’s Army, Brigham City, and States of Grace. I loved that his films took Mormonism seriously. His films were touching, thoughtful, and spiritual. I found great value in his presentations of Mormon spirituality, and dealing with life in a complex world. When Richard Dutcher resigned from the LDS church, I was still a fan, and hoped that he might change his mind someday. But even if he didn’t, I still want to be a fan.
Dan Wotherspoon did a 5 or so hour-long interview for Mormon Stories. I am such a fan, I listened to all 5 parts of the interview. I learned that Richard is producing a new film called Triptych. (Here’s a preview.) He has been seeking funding to finish filming, and I considered donating. (Fundraising ended earlier this week.) The film is basically 3 short films. Part 1 sounds really good–a boy in a city takes care of dead animals, giving them a proper burial. Part 2 is a story about a minister who lost his/her faith and tries to find it again. Part 3 tells about a woman whose faith is a source of pain, seeking to compensate by “unconventional ways.” Something strikes me a bit odd about Part 3, and I wasn’t sure I wanted to donate to the film without understand a bit more about the “unconventional ways.”
So, this week Richard Dutcher sent out a message about a screening of another of his films called Evil Angel at the Salty Horror International Film Festival here in Salt Lake City. I really wanted to go–Dutcher would be there to answer questions after, and film festivals are fun to go to. Since I’m Facebook friends with Richard, he invited me (and his 1600 friends) to attend. The screening was last Thursday in Salt Lake City.
I decided to look for a trailer to learn more about the movie. I have to warn you that I did a Google search, and discovered that evil angel dot com is a porn site, so don’t go there unless you’re looking for porn. But I did find the trailer, as well as an interview of Richard Dutcher on Youtube about the movie Evil Angel as well. I was impressed that Ving Rhames (the black guy with sunglasses in this Mission Impossible trailer) is in the film. I was intrigued to learn that the film had a biblical context: the story of Lilith, Adam’s wife prior to Eve. I’ve been intending to post more of the story of this [alleged] woman before Eve, but haven’t fully researched it yet so I’ve been holding off. I thought Dutcher’s film might be some good research for me. However, while Dutcher uses this semi-biblical story, it is more of a blood and gore serial killer movie. Lilith, spurned by Adam, is taking revenge on the entire human race. There does appear to be some gratuitous sex and a tremendous amount of bloody violence. The trailer appears to have an R rating, though I believe the film is unrated at this time.
I have enjoyed some horror films, but it is not my interest. For example, I liked Se7en (Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman), and the Blair Witch Project, but these are the exceptions, rather than the rule. After viewing the trailer for Evil Angel (you can see it here), I decided against going to watch it, and decided I was glad I did not contribute to Triptych because I don’t know if I am interested in supporting this kind of cinema. But see for yourself, and check out Dutcher’s interview on YouTube.
So, I did some more research on Dutcher. His other recent film is sort of a semi-autobiographical film called Falling. He marketed it here in Utah as the “first R-rated Mormon film.” I thought that was a terrible marketing ploy. Still I wanted to see it, but never did. This interview at Cinema Scope describes it a bit with Richard Dutcher as the lead character (named Eric), wondering if he has wasted his life. Ok, I get that, and it sounds like it could be interesting, but the real problem I have with the film is what I have heard about the film. Quoting from the interview,
This is Dutcher’s most painfully, even extravagantly agnostic film: a pivotal moment even features [main character] Eric [played by Dutcher] lobbing f-bombs at the Man Upstairs. A grim work of gutbucket artistry, Falling is a masterfully controlled atrocity exhibition that, like its protagonist, eventually flies into a million pieces: one can practically see the blood and sweat, the physical force pushing light through the celluloid in the effort to grab hold of something in a spiritually rudderless world.
This description is making me glad I didn’t see the film. I am really impressed with Dutcher’s first 3 Mormon films, but these last 3 really leave me scratching my head. I know he wants to make a film on the life of Joseph Smith. I want him to make that film, and if he treats the subject matter with the same insightful spirituality of the 3 films I liked, I still would donate to the cause. But I’m really scratching my head with these last 3 films here. What are we supposed to think of Richard Dutcher?