Color, 2018, 91 mins. 19 secs.
Directed by Joel Potrykus
Starring Joshua Burge, David Dastmalchian, Andre Hyland, Mahfuz Rahman, Madigan Bachman

B&W, 2014, 97 mins. 29 secs.
Directed by Joel Potrykus
Starring Joshua Burge, Joel Potrykus, Teri Ann Nelson
Anti-Worlds (Blu-ray) (UK R0 HD), Oscilloscope (Blu-ray & DVD) (US RA/R1 HD/NTSC) / WS (1.78:1) (16:9)

"Prophetic" Relaxernow seems to be the best word to describe RelaxerRelaxer, a single-room 2018 indie that foreshadows the stay at home cultural shift in the wake of the COVID-19 onslaught in 2020. At heart it's basically a really out there slacker comedy via the Theater of the Absurd best enjoyed in a somewhat altered consciousness, but it's also a quirky, wry look at the escalating madness that can occur when someone takes a stationary position to a wild extreme.

In late 1999 as hysteria mounts outside over the presumed Y2K bug that could send civilization into a tailspin, Abbie (The Revenant's Burge) has become fixated on hitting the supposedly unreachable level 257 in Pac-Man -- so he's come up with a number of physical hacks to ensure he never even has to move off the couch, even to open up a window. The impetus is a dare by his overbearing brother (Dastmalchian) who wants to shoot the whole thing on video, but it soon turns into a modern riff on The Exterminating Angel as his indulgence in junk food and inertia -- interrupted by occasional visits from friends and neighbors -- spirals into something beyond comprehension as Abbie becomes convinced he's developed supernatural powers.

Though seemingly simple in conception, this fourth feature by Joel Potrykus manages to pack in a lot of undercurrents about consumerism, complacency, selfishness, and the Relaxerdark but tempting desire to just drop out, sit on your butt, and play video games all day. It isn't the most pleasant experience for many Relaxerviewers and manages to split audiences down the middle at its festival screenings, but there's no doubt that this is a singular vision and a sometimes eerily prescient snapshot of what America might look like if everyone ended up locked indoors all day long.

First released as a standalone Blu-ray and DVD by Oscilloscope in the U.S. in 2019, Relaxer hits British Blu-ray from Anti-Worlds in a considerably expanded two-disc edition that ports over the relevant bonus features including an entertaining and confessional audio commentary by Potrykus, a hilariously inert behind the scenes featurette (7m5s), rehearsal footage (10m), a lo-res "Milk Party" video (9m2s) that inspired one of this film's more queasy concepts, Dastmalchian promos (1m57s), and a trailer. Added here are a deleted scene (4m11s) involving a pizza delivery, a gallery of production photos, and a batch of Potrykus short films and music videos: "The Ludivico Treatment" (1999, 1m39s), "The Ludivico Testament" (1999, 4m9s), "Coyote" (2010, 24m10s), and Heavier Than Air Flying Machines' "Follice Gang (Green") (2m5s) and "Test Market 447b" (2019, 1m46s). The transfer for the feature itself looks as good as you'd expect for a recent digitally-shot feature with no significant issues; ditto for the LPCM English 2.0 stereo track (with optional English SDH subtitles).

The second disc in this limited edition features Potrykus' earlier 2014 film, Buzzard, making its U.K. premiere and previously available only on DVD in the U.S. from Oscilloscope. Similar in temperament but far more expansive in setting, it also features Burge, cast this time as a young con artist and horror fan named Marty whose Relaxerpastimes including little scams at work and concocted a "power glove" imitating one of his favorite genre figures, Freddy Krueger. When he gets found out, Marty ends up finding refuge in the basement of his coworker, Derek (Potrykus himself), and ends up on the lam in RelaxerDetroit with a batch of blank checks in hand. The extensive Michigan location shooting is a given now in the director's filmography, though it also ties this in with other recent-ish films shot in the area like It Follows; if you're a Detroit area location hound, this one is essential. It's also papered with horror genre references throughout even if this doesn't quite fall into the genre itself, and while the main character never really stops being a pretty irredeemable jackass, he's fun to follow on his bizarre journey to a self-discovery of sorts. This one also comes loaded as a special edition, again with a Potrykus audio commentary, an alternate "rehearsal cut" (64m35s) comprised entirely of earlier and vastly inferior takes, a video diary of sorts at the Locarno International Film Festival (8m51s), three little behind the scenes segments (2m25s, 1m56s, and 3m10s), seven alternate and deleted scenes, a couple of quick "Hidden Buzzard" messages (25s) buried in two shots, the theatrical and festival trailers, and a behind the scenes image gallery. Again the transfer is up to par for what you'd expect for a low budget digital feature, looking crisp and clear but with that inherent flatness that comes with the format; the LPCM English stereo track again sounds fine for what amounts to a very simple sound mix, complete with optional English SDH subtitles. The packaging comes with a 36-page booklet featuring liner notes by Nathan Rabin and additional essays by Potrykus, Caden Mark Gardner, and Alex Ross Perry, plus deluxe packaging including a double-sided inlay.

Buzzard Buzzard Buzzard Buzzard

Reviewed on March 19, 2020.