Aaron Woodley comes from good filmmaking stock: his uncle in none other than David Cronenberg. Growing up on the fantastic sets of the visionary and often disturbing director formed the foundation for Woodley's own love affair with film and the surreal.
His feature debut "Rhinoceros Eyes" is set in a prop house. The hero Chep (Michael Pitt) is a socially maladjusted cinephile who lives where he works. He ventures outside only to go to the movies. On his journey home, he peers inside the brightly lit windows of strangers, crunching left over popcorn and watching eagerly to let you know that life is often just as strange and satisfying as the movies. True to his Cronenberg genes, Woodley makes use of inventive special effects to tell his story: digital stop animation of puppets made from junk, oozing and wormlike, who talk to poor Chep, driving the sweet, sheltered guy into a state of agitated madness.
"Rhinoceros Eyes" is an earnest first film, well intentioned and skillfully made. Unfortunately, it is so loaded down with stuff super-cool animation, over the top eccentric supporting players, and idiosyncratic settings -that the genuine charm of the story runs thin long before the climatic, finger chopping end. Michael Pitt, the baby-faced actor with swoopy blond hair and big blue eyes who recently played a more sophisticated cinephile in Bertolucci's "The Dreamers," holds the film together just by being himself. Pitt is so confused and wanting, even when obscured behind a heavy, eerily realistic Tor Johnson mask, it is difficult not to feel his pain.