Campy humor and Freudian terror collide in supernatural psychodrama Angelica, a winningly batshit ghost story about a Victorian-era British couple whose fears of sex manifest in the form of a man-sized bacteria monster. Queer writer-director Mitchell Lichtenstein (the mind behind the vagina dentata horror-comedy Teeth) and an impressive team of collaborators inspire laughs and/or terror out of the libidinal hang-ups of frail stay-at-home mom Constance (Jena Malone) and her unfulfilled spouse, Joseph (Ed Stoppard). Constance’s hysterical fears and Joseph’s frustrated desires are mostly scarier than they are funny, particularly the cluster of giant bacteria particles that haunts Constance and her young daughter, Angelica (Connor Inorio). A palpable air of dread — created by nasty computer-generated special effects and unnerving slurping noises — accompanies every appearance of this “Flying Man.”
But the absurdity of Constance and Joseph’s libidinal neuroses is also underscored by Lichtenstein’s florid dialogue and his actors’ clipped line delivery. Try not to laugh with Stoppard when his character dismisses the Flying Man, through gritted teeth, as a collection of “hovering masculine dangers.” Even Angelica’s most juvenile gags are a perfect synthesis of gross-out silliness and atmospheric scares. You may roll your eyes when Constance walks in on Joseph as he masturbates angrily — and noisily! — and huffs an unidentified drug. But you’ll also likely be creeped out by a ruthless combination of harsh frontlighting and expertly timed physical performances. Somebody sign Lichtenstein up for the next three spinoffs of The Conjuring.
Written and directed by Mitchell Lichtenstein
Freestyle Digital Media
Opens November 17, Village East Cinema