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BILLY a film by ZACHARY EPCAR. 2019. USA. 8 min. A suburban nightmare shot in 16mm close-ups.

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Bay Area filmmaker Zachary Epcar has directed a series of formally exuberant and perceptive shorts over the course of the last decade. His suburban horror film Billy (2019), which traces its origins back to an early episode of the ‘90s soap opera Melrose Place, stands out as a shining example of his style of filmmaking by combining calculated 16mm cinematography, narrative restlessness, and a supreme attention to texture.

 

Billy concerns its eponymous male lead, an overgrown child tormented by nightmares of falling, and his girlfriend Allison, a woman as cold and distant as the suburbs the couple resides in. Epcar’s choice to film in close-ups that render his subjects undecipherable—Allison is introduced without a face, cropped at the mouth and collarbones—plays into the eeriness of his milieu; the American suburbs have always been characterized by their generic indistinguishability and Epcar shoots its nooks and crannies in a way that emphasizes their non-specificity.

 

 

“The way I think about my work, in some part, is this kind of defamiliarizing, offering a surprise for the viewer encountering a familiar environment, and doing it from a skewed angle that is disorienting.” ZACHARY EPCAR

 

In a series of unsettling images, Epcar casts household objects like Nespresso pods, FIJI water bottles, and Amazon packages in an eerie and unfamiliar light. According to him, “if the home is meant to be an enclosure insulated from the horrors of manufacture and distribution, the arrival of the package signals a contamination.” Epcar’s fascination with today’s commodity culture embodies a two-fold seduction and repulsion that reflects his own experience of contemporary life as “a constant back and forth between desire and malaise.”

 

Zachary Epcar was named one of Filmmaker Magazine’s “25 New Faces of Independent Film” last year. He is an experimental filmmaker whose work has screened at Toronto International Film Festival, New York Film Festival, and Rotterdam International Film Festival among other critically-acclaimed festivals. Epcar is also a member of the Bay Area programming collective Light Field. He is currently working on his fiction feature debut, The Syndrome, which he co-wrote alongside his longtime friend and Cinema Studies major Patrick Harrison and collaborator Patrick Galligan. The film will take place on a tropical outpost that hosts American spies who are suddenly struck by Havana Syndrome.

 

Text written by Nicolas Pedrero-Setzer.