"Everyone is an asshole," says Melanie Lynskey's Ruth early into the new thriller, I Don't Feel at Home in This World Anymore. In the moment, she's venting to her sister about the entitlement of a thief who broke into her house to steal her shit, but she could just as easily been talking about the unhinged moral universe of writer-director Macon Blair's joyfully oddball Sundance break-out, which is now streaming exclusively on Netflix. In Blair's world -- like our own -- the assholes are winning.
Luckily, Ruth is putting up a fight, and occasionally sticking it to the assholes in an insane fashion. Blair has fucked-up movie pedigree: the filmmaker cut his teeth as an actor in the brutal, semi-comic hillbilly noir Blue Ruin and played an essential role in last year's uncompromising Nazi punk thriller Green Room (both by director Jeremy Saulnier). I Don't Feel at Home in this World Anymore has a wackier, more absurd touch than Saulnier's unrelentingly bleak films, but they're similar in setting, tone, and madcap bloodshed. Blair wants to grab your throat, but he also wants to tickle it. And throw ninja stars at it. This is a weird movie.
And there's so much strangeness to be found in the nooks and crannies of individual scenes. While it would be fun to see the film on the big screen, it's also perfectly made for the freeze-frame, screen-cap era of modern laptop movie-watching. Blair's kooky sensibility rewards a watchful eye, a careful ear, and a finger hovering above the space bar. Here are five moments that make this weirdo crime flick tick.
Warning: spoilers to follow!
Elijah Wood throws ninja stars -- often
While Lynskey, recently seen in HBO's Togetherness, is undoubtedly the best part of the movie, she contends with a scene-stealing Elijah Wood as Tony, a weight-lifting, metal-loving eccentric. While some of Tony's quirks might feel like quirky nerd affectations -- did we really need to see his Settlers of Catan board game in the background of one shot? -- his love of ninja stars is a welcome character trait. As Tony and Ruth become vigilante buddies, we get to see Wood, a droll comic presence, dole out pointy justice by throwing metal stars at various criminals and low-lifes. Yes, in 2017 Frodo knows kung-fu.
A raccoon shows up at one point
One of I Don't Feel at Home's best scenes sees Ruth and Tony take a trip to a shady flea market, where they attempt to get back her grandmother's precious dishes. The walk through cluttered sanctuary is a treat -- at one point they pass a yellow plastic horse with a sign on it that reads "Not a real horse" -- but the weirdest part comes when Lynskey spots this little critter eating what looks like paper. What's this guy doing there? What important document is he eating? Is it the secret to unlocking the whole movie?
Ruth impersonates a police officer with a badge she finds in a cereal box
Ruth's quest to get her shit back is a relatable one. At various points she gets in borderline Kafka-esque conversations with authority figures like a 911 operator and a depressive detective who fail to offer any valuable assistance. So, like many action heroes before her, she takes justice into her own hands, but she does it in a fittingly child-like manner: she gets a police badge from a cereal box. Tony the Tiger would be proud.
There's a big barfing scene
If you've ever watched a violent sequence in a movie and said, "I'd be sick if that happened to me in real life," well, this is the movie for you. During the film's climatic (and slapstick-ey) confrontation in a bad guy's mansion, multiple limbs get shot up, broken-down guns explode, and, yes, someone takes a ninja star to the face. Ruth reacts by puking her guts out, leaving a puddle of vomit on the floor that rivals the amount of blood spilled in John Wick: Chapter Two. Honestly, I'm amazed no one slipped on it; kudos to Blair for showing some restraint.
And, oh yeah, a snake plays an important role
In its exciting final section, Blair goes full Deliverance and puts Lynskey on the run through a deadly forest, which cinematographer Larkin Seiple (Cop Car, Swiss Army Man) shoots in the earthy green tones of a Vietnam War movie. Though parts of the movie can feel a bit like a sitcom -- no more comedic scenes of adults having breakdowns in front of little kids, please -- the wilderness section has a visceral, tactile quality that makes this feel more like a movie than a truncated binge-watch. When that snake shows up, try not to lose your shit. It's the type of unnerving cinematic moment that can be enjoyed by both assholes and non-assholes alike.
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