Movies should not be 150 minutes long. I’ve long held this. But you know what movies especially shouldn’t be 150 minutes long? Goofy surrealist comedies. No comedy is going to be able to sustain the right tone and pacing over that long a timeframe. Particularly a comedy based around bizarre gross-out sight gags. It’s just a recipe for disaster.
So why didn’t I hate Funky Forest: The First Contact? Its structure certainly helps. The film is made up of brief-ish vignettes, loosely connected both to one another and to any broader theme. Many of them revolve around aliens and UFOs, as implied by the film’s subtitle. Plenty of them don’t. It makes a comedy of this length slightly more tolerable to be comprised of so many disparate scenes. If one doesn’t land, another one is just a few minutes away. It makes for a film that seems torturous at the outset but basically pleasant for most of its runtime.
Some people will find it torturous regardless, of course. The humor is deliberately off-color and at times unwatchably grotesque. Let’s just say the film makes great use of some truly disgusting practical effects. I’m good with never seeing a man reach his whole arm into a pulsating head-sized anus in a box ever again. Still, there’s nothing cynical or cloying about the film’s deployment of this kind of humor. It never feels desperate for the approval of guffawing weirdos who think seeing bodily fluids is the height of comedy. There’s something honest in Funky Forest, a genuine glee in its most upsetting gags. I wish I hadn’t seen many of them, but I found something to appreciate in their creation.
I don’t tend to have a lot of patience for the “lolrandom!!!1!!” Midnight Madness circuit players. There’s something exhausting about their vapidity, these movies with a soul-sucking black hole where a heart should be. Funky Forest didn’t fully win me over to the comedic style, but I was surprised by how watchable I found it. There are likable gags aplenty in this film. I really liked the scenes with the three brothers (particularly G U I T A R B R O T H E R) as well as the aimless storytelling of the three women at the hot springs. My favorite scene involves a nervous dance-off with animated aliens on a beach at night. The film lost me in the second half as it devolved into gross-out humor, though. Still, an unexpected cameo from Neon Genesis Evangelion creator Hideaki Anno had me reeling, and the shock of his appearance carried me all the way to the credits.
I’ll probably never watch Funky Forest again. I probably won’t remember it in a week. But it’s a minor treat to watch. Unlike the vast majority of its contemporaries, I don’t feel like I wasted my time on this film. That’s probably the best I can say for it.