Primal Screen

4 out of 5

Directed by: Rodney Ascher

A fascinating and fun “episode” or short from singular documentarian Rodney Ascher, who seems to love exploring the crossover from media to our dreams and imaginations…

With a smart mix of acted-out dreamscapes, clips from archival shows and movies, and voiceover without, appreciably, any actual talking heads, Primal Screen takes a look at – primarily – the ventriloquist horror film Magic, and its pretty stark commercial, which apparently disturbed its several interviewees enough to turn in to, in some cases, ongoing phobias of puppets and the like.  Primal Screen employs some pretty evocative imagery itself, and does a good job of keeping its visuals in-line with what its subjects are saying, although sometimes Ascher jumps the gun with a cool image before his speaker gets to it, creating a sort of self-aware spoiler.  The half hour is then split up into tracking this particular fear from its origin – again, mostly that commercial – through its effect over the years.  The half hour doesn’t seem to be reaching for something much deeper, but is more exposing an interest in the concept – in how these things kick off from something small and then fester – and gives its subjects room to speak in accordance with that.

A great use of 30 minutes, and what should’ve been the kickoff to a compelling series.