Felt. 2015. Directed by Jason Banker. Story by Banker & Amy Everson.
Starring Amy Everson, Kentucker Audley, Ryan Creighton, Elisabeth Ferrara, Roxanne Knouse, Merkley, and Brendan Miller.
Unrated. 80 minutes.
“My life is a fucking nightmare.”
These are the words which open Jason Banker’s (director of the interesting Toad Road) latest piece of work: Felt.
This is a hard film to describe, ultimately because it sort of defies the trappings of genre. While this is far from the first film to mix genres, I think Felt straddles a line between what might be termed similar to a rape-revenge thriller and a heady, psychological drama that takes us to incredibly personal and intense places.
“As long as it’s your own fantasy,” Amy says to her friend.
This speaks wonders, as we fall headlong into Amy’s own disturbed and traumatized world.
There is a story and plot here, though basic.
Amy (Amy Everson) has experienced some sort of unnamed trauma, most likely rape no doubt. We watch as she retreats into a fantasy world of her own making, a place where she inhabits the world as different superheroes, all made, stitched and sewn together by her own hands. In the woods, Amy acts out strange fantasies in wild costumes. She can’t stand men, as they all seem to be abusive, controlling, and unaffectionate.
Until she meets Kenny (Kentucker Audley). They start off in a whirlwind romance, picking up with each day, and Amy seems to lower her guard. Then, one of Amy’s friends shows her a picture: it is Kenny and another woman, holding hands, carrying groceries. From there, the relationship slowly starts to unravel, before Amy and Kenny end up in a situation neither of them had ever anticipated at the start.What some people, mainly male viewers who hate this film, have against Felt is that it so directly and viciously tackles rape culture. From Amy’s interactions with actual men, to her alone time out in the woods playing dress-up in her homemade superhero costumes, there’s an unflinching eye on the issues surrounding rape culture and violence against women. So, the supposed “meninists” (a stupid word in itself as feminist comes from feminine – should be masculinist if they’re trying to be taken seriously) are not going to enjoy this, it just completely obliterates male privilege throughout most of the running time.
An early scene where Amy takes on a guy who is being confrontational/physical with her friend really gets the blood pumping. The guy is just such a typically idiotic alpha male that it’s uncomfortable – unless you are one, I guess.
The masks Amy wears out in the woods by herself, plus the costumes (including a bushy pubed cock and balls to boot), are a way for her to disassociate from the fact she is a woman. Not only that, she is turned into a victim by rape culture, by all the cold interactions with men after the trauma she has endured (a trauma we never see – because we don’t need to see it), even by the friends who try to convince her to pray to God and ask him to “reveal” himself after she has tried everything else in seek of help. Everyone around Amy sort of represents that society we know all too well: lay all the blame on the victim, the victim has to get better, has to push past their trauma.
So by heading out into the woods, dressing up in her costumes, knitting and sewing different creepy masks together, by wearing masks talking with her friends, Amy is trying to find some way to get away from herself. That’s the bottom line. It’s disturbing in a way, but mostly it feel so sad. To see Amy wallow away in this depression, nobody ever fully understanding what’s happened to her, it is truly tragic.A scene which strikes hard hard is when Amy goes to a photo shoot. Another woman is there, a man taking pictures while she poses topless. Amy comes in with one of her outfits – a bra and panties, the bra with nipples sewn onto the cups and underwear with a large, open vagina. It doesn’t turn out exactly how I thought it would, but we can clearly see how Amy and her body are at odds. She is a beautiful woman, yet because of the trauma she’s experienced there’s obviously a reluctance on her part, even while alone, to be naked. Her underwear has all her sexual parts sewn onto the exterior, so she doesn’t have to get naked. What we really get here is how Amy now, because of her trauma, sees the sexual organs, her breasts and vagina, as mere objects. She was used as an object by a man, now she represents herself as one without even having to take off her clothes. It’s disturbing, at the same time there’s something deeper, enlightening about it.
Otherwise, we also just see how Amy is damaged. She heads out after the photo shoot with the other woman, they take pictures of guys in bathroom stalls showing off their dicks. Laughing afterwards and talk about the individual dicks, et cetera. Clearly her whole concept of sexuality and related issues has been skewed incredibly. Rightfully so, by whatever trauma was inflicted upon her.The turning point of everything is when Amy meets Kenny (Kentucker Audley) during her night out on the town.
She lets Kenny completely into her world after slowly warming up to him. Amy actually brings Kenny into her room, where there are all the hallmarks of her trauma in paintings, felt and wool penises, a ceramic plate painted with a spread rectum from an internet meme, and so much more.
At one point, Amy is stabbing one of her felt, homemade penises with a sharp pin. She’s literally stabbing manhood right on front of us; even Kenny gets uncomfortable and tells her it’s painful.
“Everything is qualified by the fact that you don’t have a dick,” Amy tells Kenny re: being a woman.
We can clearly see how some of this stuff she does is mastery play – to take control over the domination she has experienced at the hands of men, Amy creates these things and acts out her own revenge fantasies on a small scale by stabbing the fake penises, by wearing a fake penis and pretending she is not powerless, that she is the one holding the power right between her legs.Then we come to one of the best things about this film: Amy Everson.
She goes above and beyond the call of duty as an actor. Getting part of the credit for the story behind Felt, there’s most certainly a part of Amy Everson in the character of Amy herself. Not to say an actor can’t go deep into a character like she has done, but there’s something in the way she holds herself, the look in her eyes and the way in which speaks that says to me: she knows, she understands.
Regardless of how Everson pulled off such a beautifully creepy performance does not matter. What matters is that she fills this character with a soul, a dark and hurt soul who has been the victim of too much in her life. It’s powerful stuff at times.
Coupled with Amy’s performance, Kentucker Audley (whom I personally loved in Ti West’s The Sacrament) embodies the character of Kenny. He provides this antithesis to the men Amy seems to be running into, the ones who’ve hurt her, even the men in her friend Elizabeth’s life. Audley has this charming, affable nature about him, right from the first moment Amy meets Kenny with her friend he is disarming. The sensitive nature of Kenny comes across as he and Amy spend time together, laughing, doing silly, fun stuff, getting to know one another.Without spoiling the climax of the film, Amy spirals further down the rabbit hole of her own trauma, allowing what she has experienced to truly warp her from the woman she was once.
This is most certainly a horror movie. It may not be like other horror movies, but there is still an element of the genre here. I’d classify this as real psychological horror, as well as drama. There’s a truly terrifying angle to this movie, in the end it all plays out. By the final moments of Felt, Amy has truly taken back her power, all too literally. She has finally triumphed over men, she becomes empowered.
Jason Banker is a very interesting and brave filmmaker. Starting with Toad Road, I feel like he is going for a truly visceral, emotional perspective on the horror genre, and there aren’t many others as innovative as him. Maybe he’ll always be one of those indie film darlings. Although I hope he’ll get the chance to go bigger, take his incredible ideas to the next level. He seems to have a talent for attracting other artists, like Amy Everson, to work with, which is effective to say the least.
Felt is definitely a feminist film – a drama, a horror, even part romance. There is so much going on. In the end the greatest part of this movie is Amy Everson. She brings everything to the table, even some of her own creations, apparently; the things her character makes are some of her own things. Her performance is raw, emotionally real, and it moved me deeply. I couldn’t get over what I’d watched. It took a long time until I was able to see it – finally grabbing a copy through iTunes – and the wait was more than worth it. The film may be uncomfortable at times, very tense to the point of wanting to cringe, however, I think that it really makes things feel right. There’s an essence about Felt which pervades the entire film, from scene to scene we’re waiting for something bigger, scarier to happen. Then the finale of the film brings all that together.
Watch it when you can. An interesting take on rape culture, subverting much of what we know concerning rape-revenge movies. Here, we don’t see any abuse, we don’t see what happened to Amy – because we don’t need to. Maybe some victims turn out to not actually be victims, but bottom line: we have to listen to the victims. And Amy represents this, the whole movie. So many other similar movies have to show us the physical abuse, the sexual assault and rape of the woman before redemption can be had, or the plot can really kick in. Felt bucks that trend, so we see everything after the fact – we don’t have to watch her be traumatised, it is evident through the effects in her life she is more than just a little traumatised.
In conclusion, a knockout of a film. Interesting, innovative, fresh. The finale of Felt kicked me in the face like a Clydesdale. See it for yourself and be prepared.