Fantastic Fest Review: HISTORY OF FUTURE FOLK

Two space aliens come to our planet to deliver folk music while saving the world.

On some level, you have to appreciate the fact that this beyond-tiny Brooklyn fable has Dee Snider take the stage to introduce the night's lead act, who also happens to be our leading man. Backstage, this lonesome soul is donning a crimson high-end bargain bin spacesuit and commands his reflection with one word, “Engage.” This is how we're introduced to General Trius (Nils d’Aulaire) who impressively straddles silliness and seriousness through a square-shaped hole in a bucket helmet, even as he opens his tale with a banjo ditty about life back home -- someplace boasting “magic sponges and sulfur pits of doom.” Upon the sweet song’s ending it’s unclear whether one of the two claps from the audience of five is for the musician or the server who dropped a beer bottle.

Back home in civilian clothing we find General Trius is simply "Bill," a true-blue family man, who with a crayon in hand illustrates an oft-told fantastical bedtime story to his daughter Wren (Onata Aprile).

It’s one about a young boy named Trius who has made a promise to his mother and the people of the planet Hondo to find a new planet to inhabit as theirs has become an unfortunate neighbor to the path of a comet. After crash-landing in Brooklyn and meandering into Costco, Trius abandons an initial instinct to enact his doomsday device and instead follows another: once the first notes of the megastore’s muzak tickles his eardrums it results in the most awkward impromptu dancing in the aisles. There’s no accounting for taste folks, this is his first time experiencing the art form.

But just when you are sensing a movie about delusion and escapism, we learn that this is actually Bill’s legit origin story. And now his placid earth-dwelling, groundskeeping, flannel-clad life is threatened by the arrival of a Hondonian assassin, Kevin (Jay Klaitz). "Threatened" might be a poor choice of words as his physical appearance more resembles a cross between John Hodgman and an attractive, neo-hipster snowman.

It's here that we find the film's real conceit, in which music has become the great General Trius’ most powerful weapon. His first exposure of it to Kevin, in the mode of a simple guitar medley, causes one of the funniest scenes of the fest as Jay Klaitz goes into delirious screaming fits of ecstacy and heart-melting, near pants crapping, physical viscera. While this same viscera powers his escape, the allure of music has the two former enemies make nice and form a band called Future Folk (the cinema-audience readied version of their real life act, Acoustic Space Aliens). The story that follows is one part "band on the rise," one part "stopping alien invasion," one part "on the run from the law," one part "family melodrama," and altogether in harmony.

I'm worried some might confuse the film as a whole for an exercise in cuteness or detached irony. It's truly as earnest as they come. Much of it rests on assured storytelling and deliberate pacing, but also the steady eyes of D'aulaire's understated performance. He looks a bit of a pan-cultural Mark Duplass and the man simply radiates quiet integrity. It's really a shame we can't all have Hondoian fathers.

But as previously indicated, the film is really loveletter to the power of music. The History of Future Folk is actually born out of six years of the Acoustic Space Aliens making real music. Their songs are expertly crafted and manage not only to pluck our heartstrings throughout the film, but become woven through the fabric of simple, yet well told tale of our penchant for naive love and need for small miracles.

The result is a film that earns every inch of its charm. There's no way these real life band members’ love of music, family and mankind could be faked.