Absurdity is one of the most important aspects of comedy. Perhaps the complexities of life stem from mundane tasks but the joke of it all comes from how remarkably ridiculous these tasks are. Taken to the extreme, we’re forced to recognize how bizarre the world really is and how we, as people living in it, experience situations beyond our control from which humor blossoms. Such is the case in writer and director Michael Fodera’s dark comedy Yikes, which takes a new look at deja vu.
Ian (played by Alex Malcolm Mills) starts off his day with malaise dripping from every corner of the scene. He’s in the kitchen, staring at the toaster with a grim expression on his face, and the phone rings. His agent has a job for him. This beginning scene gives us all the information we need to explain Ian’s sense of ennui. That ennui continues throughout the entire film to both its benefit and detriment. While the bleakness which covers every action gives Yikes a distinctive feel, always a good sign, there are times when that same grim humor gets in the way of itself. His agent, Morty (played by Dan Berkley), distractedly encourages Ian to go to the audition while Ian feels that he’s had this interaction before. He hangs up and has a sudden vision of a broken coffee cup on the floor. Seconds later, he moves too quickly and knocks his coffee cup to the floor.
Throughout the day, these premonitions continue. Sometimes they’re small, inconsequential things like a razor nick but others are more impactful. During his audition, Ian, whose stage name we learn is Ian Eagle, has a vision of the audition overseers laughing hysterically. Minutes later, he finds out that the part he, a skinny white man, is auditioning for is that of a six-foot tall black man. Here, Fodera’s ability to combine irony alongside the conceit of his film really shines. While my automatic response was to cringe, I also felt like the joke was executed very well and made for a great moment. Not only did it further the action of the film, it also provided a moment of hilarity as well. The mishap is a relatable moment for any struggling actor.
Humiliated, Ian leaves to call his agent in a frustrated rush. In this scene, both Mills and Berkley really play off each other excellently. Throughout the film, both actors share a rapport that heightens the pace of the film and conveys information to the audience subtly. However, the character of Morty isn’t all perfect. In some cases, he reads like a typical film agent stereotype and therefore drags the comedic energy a bit. Perhaps if there were more nuance to the character, some of the dark humor would hit better. Ian tries to tell Morty about his premonitions but Morty writes them off as a strange version of déjà vu. Defeated, Ian hangs up and heads to the bar.
While at the bar, Ian continues to see the future. Yet he’s grown tired of them and does even blink when he sees a future where he doesn’t get the drink he wants. So far, the plot has moved slowly but has kept audience attention with bright spots of humor. Finally, we reach the culmination of the film’s action when Ian gets a vision of the bar being held up and the bartender being shot. Struck by this just a moment before it happens, Ian must decide whether to react or let the events unfold. In this climax, everything the film’s being working toward finally pays off and works as a sharp, witty ending to the black comedy.
Yikes is a great example of dark comedy done well with only a few bumps along its road. The film was an official selection at film festivals such as the Toronto International Film Festival and the Atlantic Film Festival. It runs 10 minutes long.