‘Happer’s Comet’ Review: Live by Night

Except in its final shot, “Happer’s Comet” takes place entirely at night. But if it weren’t for occasional glimpses of clocks, discerning the precise time would be tricky. There are plenty of people out and about, performing quiet, personal, often inexplicable tasks in an unidentified pocket of suburbia. (The film was largely shot in Smithtown, Long Island.)

One person records the sounds of crickets and trains on a cellphone. Another does push-ups in a closed auto body shop. Still another tries to reach a human being on an automated phone system, but all of the agents are currently busy. The only dialogue in this movie comes from external sources, like the phone system or televisions. The characters never speak, and they are never named. It may say something about the film’s foreboding mood — it’s been described as Lynchian, and the opening shot appears to nod to “Blue Velvet” — that one of the figures who looks sleepiest is driving (and drifting over the yellow line).

Motion becomes a motif: As “Happer’s Comet” progresses, it becomes difficult to keep track of how many of its subjects have donned roller blades or skates. They glide through the area almost ritualistically (or somnambulistically).

The writer-director, Tyler Taormina (“Ham on Rye”), shot this highly experimental feature during the most restrictive phase of the pandemic, apparently with a crew of two.

Taormina has taken the problem of having to look at the same thing every day and turned it into an aesthetic — staring at, and listening to, ordinary sights to the point where they become eerie and unfamiliar. (The sound design on a cornfield makeout session gets in way closer than movies normally do.) Sometimes wearying, sometimes pointlessly cryptic, “Happer’s Comet” nevertheless has a distinct way of viewing the world.

Happer’s Comet
Not rated. Running time: 1 hour 2 minutes. In theaters.

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