This piece originally appeared as part of my weekly newsletter, The Full Lid . If you liked it, and want a weekly down of pop culture enthusiasm, occasional ketchup recipes and me enjoying things, then check out the archive and sign up here.
Special Thanks to Abe Goldfarb, for assistance with fact checking.
Petra and Olive are breaking up. Petra (Maine Anders) is driven, focused and no nonsense. Olive (Rosebud) is intensely sweet and endlessly flakey. As a last ditch box ticking exercise, they visit Bozill (Brian Silliman), a relationship therapist. Olive is convinced it will work. Petra is checking her watch. And Bozill’s phone keeps ringing…
Directed and edited by Abe Goldfarb from a script by Mac Rogers, The Horror at Gallery Kay is the sweetest body horror movie you’ll ever see. Or it’s the gooiest rom-com. Or the most politically insightful and angry story about the secret history of New York, true love and what happens when we become ‘we’ you’ll ever see. Anyone familiar with Rogers’ superlative work on Steal The Stars will have an idea what to expect here. True love, cynics whose hearts are melted, the price for that and something alien and vast impressing itself onto the world around the lovers until you can’t tell if they’re doomed or saved or both. However, here Mac is, if anything, on stronger ground than with Steal the Stars. Instead of the head on collision between private security and UFOlogy, we get two people fighting to save their lives, their relationship and slowly realizing that neither matter in the way they think they do. In fact. they matter much, much more. It’s sweet and angry, tart and pugnacious writing that throws those glorious turns of phrase Mac excels at towards you ever few minutes. Rosebud, especially in the second half, uses Mac’s dialogue like a Judoka uses their opponents’ lapels; constantly putting the movie and you exactly where they need you to be. A space, by the way, infinitely larger than the small office and gallery the story itself plays out in.
That sense of scale and scope is landed by the other primary team members here. Goldfarb cleverly uses slow motion and modified lighting to heighten the reality of Bozill’s office as we begin to descend into the story. Later, the stark lights of the Gallery double as a canvas for the oddest session Bozill has ever led to play out across. The claustrophobia of horror is harmonized with the soaring massive scale of Olive’s love and the city that she and Petra discover they can both access. This is a story where love really is the answer. And, like the best answers, it leads to even more questions.
The cast help answer those questions with fierce and witty aplomb. Rosebud is the standout here, flowing effortlessly from a well-meaning and mildly ineffectual hippie to someone far more regal and alien in the second half. They get a lot of the best lines, some of the best laughs and manage, along with Kristen Vaughan’s wonderfully chipper turn as a terrifying receptionist, to make the vast and otherworldly present in a small room. Anders is just as good in different ways, and Petra’s journey here is from the comforting cynicism of life to the horrific realization she has everything she wants and what she has to do about that. Silliman impresses too, especially in the second half. No one has fun at the gallery but Bozill has the least fun and Silliman does his best work as a somewhat maimed, thoroughly pissed off and still deeply sweet therapist. Poor Bozill, and he only took the session as a favor too.
Ultimately Gallery Kay is a movie that arrives at the same place however you look at it, but takes different routes to get there. it’s a story about New York’s biggest secret, discovered by two people trying to figure out if they should stay together. It’s a story about sacrifice as impediment and sacrifice as enhancement. It’s a story about how we become less than we were and more than we can be. It’s angry and tearful, hopeful and brutal, funny and disturbing. It’s also the perfect double bill with Us, and in this newly Twilight Zone-enhanced era, deserves to find that exact audience too. It’s just as rich and strange and far sweeter than you might expect.