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DumbLand

writer and director: David Lynch

35 minutes (15) 2002
Scanbox DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 7/10
reviewed by Jim Steel
There is an argument for saying that this is the purest Lynch creation yet, given that he wrote, directed, voiced and animated it. The animation is crude, but the camera angles are genius. Camera angles..? You know what I mean. The timing is pretty impressive as well, and much of it is laugh-out-loud funny - that is, if you're the kind of person who laughs at David Lynch films. He's got a highly under-rated sense of humour. And that, really, is all you need to know. You have already decided, correctly, whether or not you'll enjoy DumbLand.

So let's get down to the gritty. In 2002, Lynch created these eight (five-minute or so) episodes at home on his computer using Flash software. The core character is a foulmouthed and violent moron whose sole interests are beer and football. He's never named in the series, but according to Lynch his name is Randy. He never leaves his home for the duration of the series, and the only other regular characters are his wife, a nervous wreck who is constantly screaming, and his small moronic son who has a penchant for repeating the same phrase over and over. Coming to this series cold, however (which is now impossible for you), you are quite unaware where the viewpoint lies. The first episode is entitled The Neighbour and it starts with two people talking over a fence. Unsure at first who is the focus, we swing between the two characters. Randy quite obviously has a temper-management problem and spends a large part of the episode shouting abuse at a passing helicopter. He also covets his neighbour's shed. And then he accuses his neighbour of being a duck-fucker. The neighbour, a quiet little man, appears to go along with it for the sake of a quiet life. The pay-off is astonishingly well timed, and funny.

Probably the most Lynchian episode is four, A Friend Calls, that starts out in a violently bizarre fashion as Randy takes a dislike to his wife's new clothes dryer, and then it goes all creepy as he sits and talks with a friend who is a hunter. This is hunting as psychosis. In My Teeth Are Bleeding, Randy spends the entire episode in his armchair where his attention is drawn in turn by the television, his son on a trampoline, his wife screaming in the other chair, and the traffic outside the window. Repetition is slowly, artfully, developed into drama, but the end is weak. It is apparent, however, that Lynch put much more detail into the soundtrack than he did with the animation. Uncle Bob is one of the highlights. Randy is left to look after Uncle Bob by a strange, Brando-esque creature that is apparently his mother-in-law. Uncle Bob gradually unveils an increasingly annoying set of tics that crank up the tension masterfully. Randy's bound to snap, and then what?

Another Lynchian motif occurs in the final episode when Randy, attempting to spray ants, accidentally sprays himself and starts hallucinating. Lynch, obviously no stranger to William Burroughs, uses this to introduce an imaginary ant chartreuse who sings abuse at Randy. This is something that goes all the way back to the girl in the radiator in Eraserhead.

Flaws..? It could have done with the fart gags that are straight out of South Park's Terence and Philip, and too many of the episodes end with a whimper instead of a punch. But these things shouldn't distract too much. This may be a minor Lynch piece, but it's still a fine example of his unadulterated vision. Fans will not want to miss it.
NEXT

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