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Weirdsville, a dark comedy scripted by Willem Wennekers and directed by Allan Moyle, tells the story of two junkie buddies and one very strange winter night. “Quiet and introspective” Dexter (Scott Speedman) and “ideas man” Royce (Wes Bentley) find themselves in debt to local drug dealer Omar (Raoul Baneja). Unable to pay, Royce volunteers their services as dealers for the small-time mobster. Unfortunately Royce and his girlfriend Matilda (Taryn Manning) cannot resist the drugs they were supposed to sell and Matilda overdoses and dies… or so it would seem.

Matilda’s drug coma sets off a bizarre chain of events that begins when Dexter and Royce break into the local drive-in to bury her body. Dexter stumbles across a group of preppy Satanists who have just made their first human sacrifice. The Satanists tie up the men and decide that the recently deceased Matilda will be next to donate her blood to the dark lord. Miraculously, however, Matilda awakes and the trio escape, though their night is far from over. Omar’s discovery of the missing drugs necessitates a new plan for fast cash, leading to an attempted heist of a hippie millionaire’s personal safe, and the rest of the film is concerned with how to get the money, escape the murderous cult that’s been following them all over town and finally kick their heroin habits at the end of it all. 

The plot of Weirdsville is certainly bizarre and often outrageous. Idiosyncratic details such as Omar’s passion for curling, the millionaire’s fetish for garden gnomes and a gang of medieval battle re-enacting dwarves are typical of Weirdsville’s offbeat humour, placing the film in the tradition of cult-hit stoner comedies. Yet what gives the film emotional heft is the humanity of the characters and the undeniable chemistry between lead actors Speedman and Bentley. Moyle declared Weirdsville to be like “Trainspotting shot in Canada – but with more heart”. While the film might not be completely comparable to Danny Boyle’s landmark UK hit, Weirdsville certainly offers an exportable brand of Canadian black comedy.

Director Moyle is perhaps best known for his 1990s cult favourites Pump Up the Volume (1990) and Empire Records (1995). Weirdsville, along with his critically acclaimed 1999 film New Waterford Girl, marks a return to Moyle’s Canadian roots. Speedman, familiar to most from his roles in the TV show Felicity and the Underworld films, has also made his mark on Canadian cinema, acting in works such as Gary Burns’s Kitchen Party (1997), Isabel Coixet’s My Life without Me (2003) and Atom Egoyan’s Adoration (2008). Weirdsville allows Speedman to display his comic talents, playing the wry and self-aware straightman Dexter to Bentley’s colourful, reckless, and charming Royce.

Weirdsville debuted at the 2007 Slamdance Film Festival and was declared a sleeper hit at the festival. This promising opening was followed by warm reception at many other international film festivals, including Edinburgh, Toronto, Vancouver and Calgary. The film was released theatrically in Canada, the United States, and the United Kingdom in the fall of 2007 but was restricted to limited screens and turned out a poor box office gross. Reviews of the film upon its theatrical release were mixed. Many American critics were impressed by the eccentric humour of this Canadian export and it was hailed as the next great stoner comedy, a soon-to-be cult hit and
an entertaining comic heist film in the vein of Safe Men (1998) and Bottle Rocket (1996). Other critics felt that the film was lacking in originality and attempted to glean styles from too many other popular hits, including the aforementioned Trainspotting and Pulp Fiction (1994). Many critics felt that Moyle failed to live up to the standards he had set with Pump Up the Volume and New Waterford Girl.

Still, the film’s place in Moyle’s body of work and in the context of recent Canadian cinema has yet to be fully assessed. Moyle is known as a cult director, with his most important films becoming hits after their initial release. Weirdsville charmed audiences on the festival scene and could continue to grow in popularity through its DVD release. With a strong cast consisting
mostly of young Canadian actors, a homegrown story of drugs and adventure in a small northern Ontario town and a director well versed in what pleases audiences looking for laughs with some edge and some heart, Weirdsville has the potential to reach popular audiences both in Canada and on an international scale.

By: Andrea Whyte