REVIEW: The Turtle’s Head [2014]

Rating: 4 out of 10.
  • Rating: NR | Runtime: 12 minutes
    Release Date: 2014 (USA)
    Director(s): Ari Aster
    Writer(s): Ari Aster

She didn’t get the pun.

What appeared an early misstep of juvenile comedic intent with TDF Really Works actually seems to be a glaring blind spot for writer/director Ari Aster after watching his short film The Turtle’s Head. There are few better than him today where using humor to augment the subversions of darker genres is concerned. But his attempts to go broad without any underlying message or social motivation have thus far proven lackluster. A few chuckles are earned here en route to a very repetitive exercise in gross-out comedy that ultimately goes nowhere. Even worse is that this attempt had potential for more. Where the former skit was a 2-minute gag, this one began with intrigue only to have it dissolve into wasted opportunity.

The tale surrounds Detective Bing Shooster, an aging lech of a PI played with smarmy relish by Richard Riehle. We’re inside his head as he monologues his encounter with a new client, eyes always lingering too long upon Susan Barling’s (Jennifer Christopher) anatomy. The exchange is over-the-top enough to make it so we can’t help but ready for a comeuppance or moment of clarity if not both. We hope it will arrive with Aster delivering yet another unexpected twist of fate that really put the screws to either the character or our unsuspecting voyeurs in the audience. What we receive instead is a silly medical condition feigning karmic retribution. Plot goes out the window so this self-proclaimed lothario can fall to pieces.

And it all happens with zero appeal. We’re supposed to be enjoying the fact that Shooster is experiencing such bad luck while his lackeys work to solve Susan’s case, but he had already admitted to being bad at his job and disinterested in anything but getting in her pants. So rather than be a funny juxtaposition, the good police work is merely superfluous nonsense serving no other purpose than supplying the lead another matter of importance to ignore in favor of his issue. That ailment by itself isn’t even really funny beyond the crass joke of letting Riehle drop his pants for anyone and everyone in exasperated panic. It’s all so on the nose and superficial, each chuckle lessening once we realize there’s nothing else to the whole.

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