OCEAN CITY MONSTER BUILDINGDirected by Chris Lane
Cast: Evelyn Maria Dia, Julie Joy Shin, Rick Schneider, Tjasa Ferme, Tory Delahunt
In 1984 upstate New York, the former mayor of a small town is found dead in his car with a 15-year-old girl, victims of an apparent double suicide. The investigation puts city detective Aida Pierre at odds with the local sheriff, and makes the mayor’s adopted daughter Sally question her relationship with her family. That both Sally and Detective Pierre are immigrants, strangers in this seemingly all-white town run by veterans of the Vietnam War, draws them into an unlikely bond.
For his debut feature, director Chris Lane takes a very different approach than the glossy true crime style dominating prestige television. Inspired by the Dogme 95 Manifesto, the Danish film movement emphasizing simplicity and directness, Lane works in handheld DV and available light, giving a raw presence to a story set nearly 40 years ago.
As the enigmatic title suggests, OCEAN CITY MONSTER BUILDING finds surreal poetry in its barebones technique and gritty subject matter. Doorbells ring on their own, dreams blend into reality, and police talk takes absurdist turns. “The woman works in the world’s oldest profession,” the sheriff whispers to Detective Pierre. “…She’s a toolmaker?”
With a unique mix of deadpan humor, DIY production style, and philosophical dialogue, OCEAN CITY MONSTER BUILDING uses its mystery setup to expose the desperate heart of the United States in the early Reagan years.