What’s the worst thing you’ve ever done? This razor-edged question is the catalyst for a whole lot of horrible things in mad genius Onur Turkel’s new film Applesauce. Last year Turkel’s sardonic vampire film Summer of Blood was a hit and now he’s outdone himself with a morbidly comedic look at the repercussions of infidelity and sins of the past. Through Turkel’s lens these grim issues are presented in a wicked hilarious manner, with the filmmaker’s awkward, literate, “I can’t believe he said that” humor relentlessly attacking the viewer.
Turkel stars as Ron, a high school teacher who presses his students to think about the ethical repercussions of war and to consider its alternatives. These are high school kids though so he’s met with little respect. Him and his wife Nicki (Trieste Kelly Dunn) seem to live a fairly normal existence alongside their best friends Les (Max Casella) and Emmy (Jennifer Prediger). One night over dinner, Ron talks about the worst thing he’s ever done. It happened where I’m sure a lot of “worst things” happen, at a frat party.
What Ron reveals was a complete accident, but gruesome nonetheless. His confession sets off a chain of adverse events for the four main characters, as they each then become curious as to the horrible things their spouses did in the past. Provoking one another sends them on a downward spiral that shakes the foundations of their relationships and for Ron, his sanity. Shortly after he confesses, someone starts sending him severed body parts. Ron becomes suspicious of everyone, from his best friends to his students.
A lot of the conflict comes from Ron’s distrust of Les as the two men exchange some gut-busting verbal jabs (and equally hilarious fake-out punches). While a lot of the humor in Summer of Blood came from Turkel’s self-deprecation, his character Ron is more secure in himself. His cockiness this time doesn’t seem as dickheaded. He’s still a sarcastic S.O.B., sure, but way more tolerable of a human being. He is a teacher of conflict resolution, after all. Watching him try to uncomfortably resolve his conflicts with everyone around him would suggest otherwise. It’s a great character dichotomy and Turkel nails it.
When Ron does get to the bottom of who’s sending him body parts (it starts with the most innocent part you can think of and then builds up to, you know), it’s not this big “oh shit” twist. I love that about the film. Where the “reveal” might be treated as a giant hook in another film, Turkel’s conclusion is more organic and commonsense. “Oh, this is the guy behind it? Okay, let’s talk about it.” It’s a very satisfying end.
I should mention that the great character actor Dylan Baker (Trick ‘r Treat, Happiness) has a small role as radio host Stevie Bricks, the man who asks his listeners every Tuesday night about the worst thing they’ve ever done. At first Stevie seems like a background character, but Turkel ties him in wickedly later on.
Applesauce is a wholly singular riot that’s equal parts horror-relationship drama-comedy-mystery about people trying to get their shit together in the face of brutal honesty, betrayal, and detached body parts. It’s certainly not the bloodbath that Summer of Blood is, no. But it’s sure to satisfy anyone with a morbid and suspicious view of the world. Or anyone who likes, you know, laughing.
Applesauce just had its world premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival. Dark Sky Films already bought the sucker so we’ll keep you updated on an official release.