To its credit, RELAXER made me gag in the first fifteen minutes. I've prided myself on having a strong stomach for gross-out genre fare, but director Joel Potrykus managed to slip one through my defenses with a bit involving some warm milk and a challenge no sane person would ever tackle.
If you have seen any of the previous features from Potrykus (THE ALCHEMIST COOKBOOK, BUZZARD, APE), you should be prepared for what RELAXER is going to throw at you - stomach-churning acts committed by immature and unappealing leads, a slackerdom vibe, and a takedown on masculinity as a toxic dude-bro and a man-child are both on display as if we were observing them in a zoo exhibit. While I don't think RELAXER will win over anyone who didn't enjoy the previous films from Potrykus, it definitely offers something for his fans and anyone looking for something off-kilter and gross.
Abbie (Joshua Burge) is desperately seeking approval from anyone in his orbit, including his asshole brother Cam (David Dastmalchian) or his off-screen father who is in prison. Cam abuses Abbie's yearning for approval by pushing him into pointless and grueling challenges, all to be videotaped for likely later abuse of Abbie.
The first challenge we witness is Abbie has to drink a gallon of milk in a short period of time. Anyone who has ever watched JACKASS knows how this challenge ends, but Potrykus manages to throw in a curve for some laughs and an extra gross-out factor. Having failed this challenge and presumably all of the other challenges, Cam issues an ultimate challenge to Abbie - beat level 256 of Pac-Man (which is impossible thanks to a glitch in the game). To make matters worse, the challenge also mandates that under no circumstances may Abbie ever leave the couch until the challenge is complete.
And that's the film. We watch Abbie suffer on the couch and continue his pointless quest to defeat Pac-Man. Some other characters come and go (and have some pretty good dialogue about JERRY MAGUIRE), but Abbie remains on the couch, determined to defeat the challenge and make his brother proud. No matter how bad (or gross) things get for Abbie, he won't leave the couch. This will likely frustrate some viewers as the answer to all of Abbie's problems and struggles is readily apparent - dude, just stand up. However, that's the point of the movie. It's a study about a man-child who is outside of society and is literally letting his life pass him by while he attempts two futile tasks - defeat Pac-Man and win the respect of his brother.
As you might expect, the film is all contained in the single location of the apartment, but Potrykus utilizes the space well. You can almost imagine what the apartment might smell like by the end of the film. The film manages to throw in some new elements whenever it might be getting stale, it also helps that RELAXER is a breezy 91 minutes.
This is not an easy film to recommend as it will likely only appeal to the midnight, wtf-loving genre crowd. You can probably check out the trailer and get a good idea of whether or not RELAXER will be a enjoyable watch for you. I personally enjoyed it, but I'm one who seeks out the weirder content on the fringes and late-nights of the festival circuit.
RELAXER opens in select cinemas on Friday, March 22 and will be expanding to New York City and elsewhere starting on Friday, March 29.