We are getting right into it today with our reviews of The Conformation by Paul Solet from Tales from Beyond the Pale Season 1. Again, these are spoiler filled discussions/reviews. Read at your own discretion!
Summary: A woman finds the perfect surgeon to help her achieve plastic perfection.
The Conformation pays homage to a long history of individual characters and/or an entire society dramatically succumbing to vanity and using plastic surgery to take a scalpel filled trip to Creepy Town. This plot device jogged ancient memories of that episode of the Twilight Zone with the people with pig faces. You know which one I’m talking about. It features that classic and world famous Twilight Zone WTF twist at the end. And in researching that episode (The Eye of the Beholder), I also stumbled on another thematically similar Twilight Zone episode called Number 12 Looks Just Like You. It features a world where teenagers undergo radical plastic surgery at a specific time. Each person is forced to transform into one of 12 Cylon models, whoops I mean 12 human models that are not only pleasing to the eye, but also anti-aging. Obviously this transformation process has the potential to really mess with a person’s identity. Not to mention it would totally give you the willies. (“We love you Sharon”).
With all those paths being blazoned in visual media, it’s surprising that a story like The Conformation was created for very much auditory Tales from Beyond the Pale. Surprising until you actual listen to the tale because, well, if you ever wanted your very own collection of distressing sounds of human flesh being sliced, squished and squashed, then you just hit the grossness jackpot. I particularly like the addition of the sizzling beef bulgogi from the Korean restaurant following scenes from the surgical office–super gross. I enjoyed this story and this study of the human fascination with aesthetic and how it can reflect your true self, be it of low self-esteem, pure conceit or just a deranged and obsessive mind. The doctor’s assistant gives us some attempts at humor, which I appreciated (“We owe these guys 60 cervezas or a hand job–I hope you have cash.”) And although the character list is rife with male assholery between the superficial bro assistant and the pretty unstable doctor himself, I thought the character of Michelle was intriguing, especially when contrasted with the nose job bimbo. The voice actress made some really interesting choices in her voice quality. At first Michelle was so meek and timid until the listener (and the doctor) starts to realize that she is deeply unhinged and won’t stop chopping away her body. When she is confronted she loses her shit and screams the scream of a lady who just wants some goddamn plastic surgery, geez. Paul Grace’s foreboding and lyrical cello music was awesome too, giving the tale an extra boost atmosphere. This story and the promotion during the break totally made me want to watch Paul Solet’s film, Grace, despite my aversion to pregnancy movies (I’m looking at you, Juno and Baby Mama). So yeah, The Conformation. You’re beautiful. Don’t change a thing. Really.
I think the most telling thing about Conformation is that I barely remember it. Most of the TFBTP stories I could remember my favorite parts and what I did and didn’t like, and the scariest bits no problem. In trying to write a review of this one, I was like, “oh, right. Crazy plastic surgeon. Yup.” And . . . that’s it. I think the biggest issue for me was just that I didn’t care about these characters. I am all for anti-heroes, I can root for serial killers to win (cough Dexter cough) but this wasn’t even anti-hero, this was just . . . crazy and mean and dumb characters whose motivations I didn’t really understand, and I didn’t really care what happened to the doctor or the patient. I fully admit this might be a reviewer bias; I like more character-driven stories, so if the characters annoy me, I’m probably gonna be annoyed with the story. These characters annoyed me. But it did have amazing sound effects. Amazingly gross and squinchy and give-you-a-bad-taste-in-your-mouth-for-an-hour. If you liked Human Centipede, you’d like this Tale.
This story had potential, but the idea behind it is not at all original. Radio was the wrong format for it for sure. British and Proud has scenes of intense violence and sex that are all the more disturbing because we do not see them, and must imagine them in our minds. But the idea of obsession with plastic surgery taken to extremes has been done before, and so the only effect way for it to shock is visually. I think in a horror compilation, as a short 30 minute film, this could have been good. However, the idea has been done before, and better. Of particular note is the video game Bioshock, which is perhaps the best argument for saying video games can be art. As a game it is more artfully designed, written, and acted than most horror movies, and has an atmosphere that feels like a hellish version of a Disney World ride combined with wonderful art deco art and architecture. There is an insane doctor in that game, who gets obsessed with physical perfection and goes out of control with performing surgery to try and create perfection. It is disturbing and violent and atmospheric, and makes The Conformation seem tame by comparison.
Stay tuned for our reviews of Disc 3: Is This Seat Taken