By MICHAEL GINGOLD
Starring Nicolas Cage, Franka Potente and Penelope Mitchell
Written and directed by Maria Pulera
Although its plot hinges on reincarnation, BETWEEN WORLDS isn’t really a horror film, and in fact it doesn’t fit into any conventional genre slot. It’s best defined as a Bugnuts Crazy Nicolas Cage Movie, which is fast becoming a genre unto itself.
As such, it’s odd to note that BETWEEN WORLDS is credited to one writer/director, Maria Pulera, since it plays very much like a comedic script that was directed as a drama, or vice versa. It’s also a tad surprising that a woman was responsible for this flick, as it’s about a woman who invites men to choke her to the brink of death, and a man whose deceased wife’s spirit is reborn in a hot 18-year-old who likes to hang around the house they share in various stages of undress.
Don’t worry, it all makes sense…sorta…in this movie’s cockeyed view of the world and cinematic storytelling. Along the way, it offers the spectacle of Cage playing both drunk (more than once) and stoned, and it opens with a close-up of an obese convenience-store worker’s butt crack.
It is at that store that Joe (Cage), a trucker in dire financial straits who is haunted by the deaths of his spouse Mary and their young daughter, first encounters Julie (Franka Potente, a long sprint away from RUN LOLA RUN) as a man is strangling her in the bathroom. Joe intervenes, kicks the guy’s ass, tells him that next time he should “wrestle with a mangator”—and only later learns that Julie had invited the guy to throttle her. As she explains, she’s able to astrally project out of her body when suffocated to a near-death state, and once Joe learns that Julie wants to jaunt to the great beyond to communicate with her comatose daughter Billie (Penelope Mitchell), he obliges. Somehow, his intervention leads Billie to wake up imbued with Mary’s soul, leading to a weird love/sex triangle between Joe, Julie, who has invited him to come live with them, and Mary-in-Billie, who bares her body for him at repeated intervals, hoses Joe down in slow motion and pulls every other trick in the Skinemax softcore book.
The score by Jason Solowsky is a Skinemax special as well—aside from the “Theme by Angelo Badalamenti” that sounds just like one of Badalamenti’s cues from TWIN PEAKS. Pulera has even said that she wanted BETWEEN WORLDS to echo the surrealism of David Lynch, but the result plays like an unintentional parody of Lynch’s cinema, with head-spinning dialogue and jaw-dropping flourishes. Joe’s line, “I haven’t had sex with anyone since my wife and daughter…” must have read better on the page than it plays on screen, and Joe also says, “That’s not even bullshit, that’s dog shit” and “A man without a truck isn’t a man” and, when Julie asks him if he wants a beer, “Does the Tin Man have a sheet metal cock?”
Trust me, I’m not even giving away the best stuff here, just providing a taste of the batshit insanity BETWEEN WORLDS offers. You’ll want to experience for yourself how Joe works a classic horror-film scene into one of his sexual romps, and a meta reference to Cage himself into another. The actor seems to be giving a different performance from scene to scene—and sometimes within the same scene—while Potente (slipping in and out of her German accent) misguidedly tries to dramatically ground their scenes and Mitchell goes whole-hog trailer-trash as Billie. The production values are somewhere below those old Skinemax movies—in an early scene with Joe and Julie driving in a truck, the vehicle is clearly not moving—though the lack of a sufficient costuming budget was probably not the reason Cage parades through the latter part of the movie in a leopard-print Speedo. The publicists for BETWEEN WORLDS graciously provided this critic with just such a banana hammock at an advance screening, and though that giveaway is unlikely to be duplicated at the movie’s limited theatrical bookings (it’s also on VOD), it is highly recommended that you catch the movie at one of these select showings, preferably late at night with an audience that can appreciate its particular charms.