There are good movies and there are bad movies, and then there’s stuff like Medusa Deluxe. It defies easy labels like that. One could more accurately call it a matter of taste. Like candy corn, liver, and pineapple pizza, some people will absolutely love it, whereas others will wonder how anyone can find it appealing. Giving credit where due, the film is audacious. But I also found its relentless style-over-substance approach pretentious and insufferable. Your milage may vary.
A group of professional hairstylists convene in England for a major competition. Each of them has their own eccentric, unique design to show off. Before the show can even start, the leading competitor is found murdered in the compound where everyone is staying. In an ironic twist, he’s been scalped. Someone clearly is sending a message. The other competitors – including feisty salon owner Cleve (Clare Perkins) and the religious Divine (Kayle Meikle) – debate who the killer could be. A suspicious security guard named Gac (Heider Ali) adds to the tense atmosphere in and around the theater.
Writer/director Thomas Hardiman has conceived Medusa Deluxe as one of those movies made to appear as though accomplished in a single, unbroken shot. That’s a tough format to pull off. A couple films, notably 1917 and Soft & Quiet executed it successfully. More often than not, the technique is show-offy and a distraction. That’s definitely the case here. In between each vignette, we watch as a character exits the scene and spends time walking to wherever the next one takes place. That leaves plenty of room to get your head out of the story and begin thinking about the technical aspect of the picture.
The one-shot gimmick similarly ensures we don’t get to know any of the characters well. They drift in and out, never developing into three-dimensional entities. We’re supposed to laugh at the various personality-driven ways they respond to the murder, yet because we don’t learn much about them as people, the laughs are non-existent. Only Cleve makes any sort of impact, and that’s because Perkins is such a force of nature in the role.
Medusa Deluxe is a 100-minute long string of thin scenes populated by flat characters. Or at least that’s how it played to me. Hardiman’s skewered outlook on the world of hairdressing may ring funnier for viewers more acquainted with – or at least more interested in – that world. Perhaps the best term to describe the film is “avant garde.” You’ll either land on its oddball wavelength or you won’t. I did not. The fun musical number over the end credits is the best part.
out of four
Medusa Deluxe is rated R for language throughout, some sexual references, and brief drug use. The running time is 1 hour and 40 minutes.