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Glasgow Film Festival 2024 – Tummy Monster ★★★★



Released: Glasgow Film Festival (2024)

Director: Ciaran Lyons

Starring: Lorn Macdonald, Orlando Norman

The disorientating experience of finding a ‘celebrity’ in a place you least expect them to be. Prompting a mixture of bewilderment and contemplation, in whether to approach this either highly regarded or perhaps vilified figure. You may not even have a particularly emotional attachment to them. Viewing this opportunity as a quick-fire means for social media likes or to momentarily feel superior in your social circles.

We’ve grown accustomed to scrutinising famous faces. But what does that say about the human condition? Is it masking the insecurities within ourselves that are far from skin-deep? What if the tables were turned and our character was interrogated?

Thought the Candyman ritual in front of a mirror was a nerve-wracking challenge? Allow Orlando Norman and Lorn Macdonald to present you with a proper endurance test, in this searing anxiety-inducer of a thriller from Ciaran Lyons.

In ‘Tummy Monster’. Macdonald plays Tails, a highly skilled bubble gum-vaping tattoo artist whose own ego, threatens to pop the protective bubble on his already chaotic family life. An impromptu late-night phone call only offers to heighten that level of self-importance further. He’s tasked with inking Tummy (Norman), as his minder Truth (Michael Akinsilure) keeps a steely eye on Tails’ interactions with the music sensation. A seemingly innocuous request for a selfie by Tails on behalf of his niece, sets the stage for a menacing game that could just leave an indelible mark on both men.

A production that lasted a mere five days. It’s perhaps unsurprising to discover ‘Tummy Monster’ has a palpable sense of urgency that is in keeping with a superstar’s lifestyle like Tummy’s; and how those many obligations you’re meant to fulfil in double quick time can feel confining. But also, in the case of Tails too, when those micro aggressions of the everyday mount up over a period, creating an instability in how we interact and process emotions. Director Lyons enhances that confinement to thrilling effect. Through tight, claustrophobic framing, whilst utilising the film’s grungy interiors and death metal playlist to mirror its characters’ murky moral compasses, alongside their evident need for catharsis.

Factoring in the chosen career paths of both Tails and Tummy. ‘Monster brilliantly articulates also how one’s artistry is essentially about stamina. In the event of poor mental bandwidth, the ways in which we’re drawn to poor choices and look to press the self-destruct button. An inner demon of feeling ‘seen’ for how we truly want to be seen, that is in keeping with the film’s transitions in colour scheme, alternating between wicked reds and sobering blues.

A chamber piece like ‘Tummy Monster’ could grow tiresome awfully quick, as the chant ‘rub your tummy or I’ll you think you’re an asshole’ leaves an imprint on your mind. Its daring double act thankfully don’t leave you going hungry. Within Lorn Macdonald’s compelling, increasingly unpredictable showing as Tails. His initial blurred snap of Tummy whilst reluctantly crouched down is a metaphor for how repressed he feels deep down. Living this falsehood of being satisfied with life, secretly chasing those ’15 seconds of fame’ that creates a beast within himself and expresses little to no regard for others in the process. Whilst on first impressions, Orlando Norman’s Tummy cuts an imposing, unnerving figure. There’s a hypnotic quality to his performance that slowly gets the audience on side, as his ice-cool musings look to remedy (albeit in unorthodox fashion!) the inner discomfort experienced by Tails.

Bristling with pitch-black humour and nervous energy. Its premise may resemble hell for its protagonists. But Ciaran Lyons’ feature-length debut ‘Tummy Monster’ is a cinematic slice of heaven.

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