Deagol Brothers and Andrew Duensing’s Make-Out with Violence is a horror movie given the generic low-budget art-movie treatment. The dialogue is purposefully dull and pointless—with obnoxious tics and repetitions—in the hopes of being eerie and poetic. (The characters, mostly suburban teenagers, have an especially annoying habit of referring to one another by both first and last name.) The cinematography is Melancholia 101, taken from the showy/creepy/angsty purple-blue hues of any number of somewhat recent hell-as-suburbia movies such as The Virgin Suicides and Donnie Darko. Every moment of the film is weird either for the sake of borrowing from superior influences (particularly Twin Peaks) or, best case, merely for the sake of being weird.
You see what the directors, credited as the Deagol Brothers, are after, and you partially sympathize. Make-Out with Violence wants to be a tranced-out ballad to the mysteries and heartbreaks of being a teenager. It wants to be a film about those ineffable little details that continue to haunt us as we drift through adulthood. But the Deagols don’t have the eye or the ear for moments that slowly add up to something devastating. The Virgin Suicides wasn’t perfect, but Sofia Coppola undeniably has an eye, and she gave you a sense of the wider world her characters were cutting themselves off from; and Donnie Darko, needlessly convoluted as it was, was still generally well-performed with a welcome sense of humor to occasionally deflate the pontificating. (Let’s not even bother comparing Make-Out with Violence to even the weakest portions of Twin Peaks.)
This film never gives you a sense of anything other than of nonprofessional actors trying their best not to sound as if they’re reading lines; and the heroes’ obsession with a pretty girl who disappears to return as a confused, alluring zombie is too puny and unoriginal to support the weight of the filmmakers’ pretensions. The film feels like one a bunch of teenagers might make: ludicrously self-involved and woefully unaware of how silly it is. A more typical zombie-movie-of-the-week with some good-time kills and a few predictable yuks would have been less ambitious and personal, but it might have also been a watchable first step toward the film stuck in the Deagols’s heads.