What’s so disturbing about “Wallflower” isn’t the subject matter, but that few likely remember this incident (dubbed the ‘Capitol Hill Massacre’) because mass shootings are now so commonplace in our country. The film tells the true story of that fateful night in Seattle circa 2006 when a loner (David Call) plans and carries out his murder spree at an after-rave house party. It’s hard to tell if this movie has its heart in the right place, because it unfolds more like a sordid true crime re-enactment rather than a tribute to the victims who died.
The movie feels much like a student film project, as it trips over its own two feet with too much artsy-ness. There are too many basic film school mistakes to count, including the overuse of slow motion, ironically scored scenes (like playing classical music over scenes of a raging rave), and rookie actors with amateur performances. A majority of the scenes are pointless, with long and boring mumblecore-style house party chats and rave dancing.
The characters don’t really do much except jump along to thumbing techo music and chat mindlessly about pop culture. When the actual victims are so central to the story, they need to be presented in a more interesting way than they are here. Even worse are a few melodramatic scenes like the one where a simple act of kindness like asking a stranger if they’re okay make the movie seem like a corny PSA for teens and twentysomethings.
There’s an indie documentary feel to this narrative feature, especially in the effective opening scene that has voiceover of one of the shooter’s actual letters being read. It’s a chilling and effective method of storytelling, as is the film’s nonlinear structure. The shooting at first appears completely random, but the movie jumps around in time to reveal the truth. As with “Joker,” the film exposes the need for mental health assistance and is frightening when it shows how small things can set people off (in this case, the shooter sees bathroom stall graffiti that reads “destroy what destroys you,” and it is implied that this may be what finally sent him over the edge).
I hate to be too critical of someone’s low budget cinematic heart and soul, especially because Jagger Gravning‘s direction shows promise (considering he doesn’t have any major studio polish), but “Wallflower” is best suited for second-tier film festivals and is a forgettable tribute to the victims.