Overview: After returning from combat, two friends venture into a remote region in the Pacific forest to locate an extra-terrestrial. Leomark Studios; 2015; Not Rated; 77 Minutes.
Far Out: Star Leaf attempts to broach the subject of contemporary combat Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) with a story about young campers discovering a hyper-potent extra-terrestrial pot plant. If the description of this film doesn’t raise your eyebrows, it’s likely that you’re too high to open them, and thus, you’re in the right frame of mind to fully appreciate the zaniness of Richard Cranor’s new sci-fi stoner adventure. It’s easy to imagine that the experience of watching this movie pairs well with its subject substance, enough to maybe even earn it a sort of cult status, but from a sober critical perspective, there’s a lot to unwrap, and it’s complicated by the standard B-movie-specific paradox. This type of giddy, low budget exercise often finds its charmt in its failures against mainstream film expectations. Indeed, when the characters of Star Leaf go on their first hallucinatory cannabis trip, the psychedelic sequence, which in a more mainstream film would be absolutely ruinous, strikes a note of being delightfully absurd. The creature effects are precisely as apparent as one would hope, and the plot is at its most enjoyable when its at its most non-sensical.
Buzzkill: PTSD is an important issue and one that Cranor evidently cares deeply about, but thematically planting the conversation in the soil of this particular far-fetched premise might not yield the most fruitful buds. At times, the war-influenced, troubled psyche of protagonist James Hunter (Julian Gavilanes) feels like a functional characterization brush stroke; but that suggested tone would be a better fit for a more straight-faced shoot’em up adventure. The banter of the three central characters is most palatable when untied from that deeper thematic concern. Each of the three proves to be surprisingly funny at times. Not to be misunderstood, there are slight stretches where the effects of modern military combat make for compelling character drama, but tying such distinct knots between a cinematic appeal for medicinal marijuana legalization and an otherwise delightfully outrageous story about space reefer, stalking aliens, and mystical fairies does no favor to either of the knotted entities.
Overall: I highly recommend this movie to anyone who has ever had anxiety about random urine tests, even though Star Leaf‘s straight-faced thematic A-film ambitions don’t vibe with its rather extraordinary B-film goofiness, at least from the grounded perspective of a non-smoker.