Seven Stages to Achieve Eternal Bliss By Passing Through the Gateway Chosen By the Holy Storsh (2018) [Cinepocalypse 2018]

Hey, I always thought that if you want to make a comedy that practices surrealism and is abstract, then go hog wild. Just make sure that the comedy is actually funny. Thankfully for the most part, “Seven Stages…” is funny. It’s very funny, in fact. It’s also so off the wall, weird, and out of the ordinary that it might alienate some audiences who go in to it expecting something mainstream and broader. For a debut Vivieno Caldinelli’s “Seven Stages…” is funny and bold, but by the hour mark, the narrative completely falls apart, and I was about ready for the movie to end.

Young Ohio Couple Paul and Claire just moved to Los Angeles to start a new life together, after garnering a nice apartment at a cheap price. As Claire begins a new job at an ad company, she begins to feel pressure, especially with boyfriend Paul’s laziness and hesitance to find a real job. Things go even worse, when a deranged man crawls in to their apartment window one night, tap dances to their bathroom tub, and commits suicide. Much to their horror, they learn that their apartment was the death place of a cult leader known as the Holy Storsh and now whenever his members seek to commit suicide and join him, they always sneak in to the house. At first the situation seems horrifying, but as Claire and Paul accidentally begin reading Storsh’s teachings, they begin to use his philosophy to help them in everyday life.

“Seven Stages…” is loco, and insane. There’s an animated bird talking to character Paul, there’s Paul interviewing himself for a job set to canned laughter, and there’s a long shockingly brilliant monologue from Sam Huntington’s character explaining how he lost his job in Ohio. Suffice to say it involves a water purification plant, and a post apocalyptic war zone. I just couldn’t believe my eyes and ears at times. There are also a ton of cameos from comedians like Brian Posehn, Dana Gould, and Josh Brenner, respectively. Taika Waititi even appears as the Holy Storsh in a mock beard and long hair. Claire and Paul find themselves on separate journeys through this discovery of Storsh, and they inevitably come crashing in to one another as they find a sense of satisfaction in his followers committing suicide in front of them.

While Kate Miccuci and Sam Huntington are great, Dan Harmon steals the movie as a frustrated officer and aspiring screenwriter forced to retrieve the corpses of Storsh’s followers. He not only gets the best lines, but left me in tears more than once. That said after the hour mark “Seven Stages…” fell apart with a weird sub-plot involving a crooked politician, and deranged murders, and I was about ready to tap out from that point on. Even the finale is woefully mishandled with an unusually saccharine closing scene. In any case, “Seven Stages…” is a bonkers, bat shit insane movie, but a funny one. If you’re in the mood to experiment with an unconventional, sometimes loony comedy, I recommend it.

The Cinepocalypse Film Festival Runs from June 21st – June 28th.