There’s nothing worse than not being able to pick your nose. We all claim we don’t like to do it, but the truth is, sometimes there is no other way to get rid of what’s bothering you. A tissue can’t do what a forceful finger can, removing the source of discomfort with one swift, slimy motion before showering you with a wave of instant relief. Sometimes the only way out is in.
Disgusted by this review already? Then I don’t think you’ll enjoy Booger, Mary Dauterman’s gross girl ode to grieving currently screening at the 2023 Fantasia International Film Festival. But if you read that first paragraph and giggled in agreement, it is definitely going to be a movie for you.
Grieving can feel like developing a scab, the hardest parts staying with you even after the initial source of pain fades away. And in Booger, the effects of losing someone take an even more haunting physical form. Let’s just say there are whiskers, fangs, and litter boxes involved.
Centering around a fitful young woman (Grace Glowicki as Anna) transforming into a cat as she mourns the sudden death of her best friend (Sofia Dobrushin as Izzy), Booger is body horror meets mumblecore. If it was a themed charcuterie board, people would call it “femme and feral” as it features a platter of canned tuna laid out next leftover Thai food. Think “girl dinner” if it was served by a Cronenberg or, better yet, Gregg Araki.
From eating cat food with reckless abandon to coughing up hairballs in a bar bathroom, Glowicki (also seen in 2021’s Strawberry Mansion and the similarly sick Tito) goes all in to depict Anna’s descent into despondency as she searches for Booger, the black cat she shared with Izzy. Same goes for Dauterman as writer/director.
The camera never shies away from whatever icky activity Anna is up to, making Booger pretty hard to digest at times. But Dauterman peppers in moments of emotional levity by way of two equally game supporting players: Heather Matarazzo (a foul film icon since Welcome to the Dollhouse) as an unhinged cat lady, and Marcia DeBonis (recently seen in The Time Traveler’s Wife series) as Izzy’s oddly supportive mom. We also get brief peeks at Anna and Izzy’s past through phone footage, including a clip of them singing “Escape (The Piña Colada Song)” at karaoke (yes, you will have it in your head after the credits roll).
At one point in the last half of the film, DeBonis’ character tells Anna that she “can’t keep it all inside, or [she’ll] rot.” This is the essential theme of Booger and, I suppose, the best advice anyone can give to someone navigating the hardest heartbreak of all. Alas, that’s about all the film has to say, belabouring this point again and again through relentless displays of destruction and disgust before coming to a surprisingly sweet conclusion.
Anna is an interesting character, especially as portrayed by the odd and effervescent Glowicki (who also shined in last year’s Until Branches Bend). But I left the film yearning to know more about Izzy, particularly her relationship to Booger. Maybe Dauterman wanted to keep a distance from the character as a way to personify Anna’s dissociation from reality. But by doing so she relegates another woman of colour to the rarely seen best friend role.
Like picking your nose, Booger is a film that will work for some and make others wholly uncomfortable. It’s perfect programming for a festival like Fantasia, where audiences come to see all things strange and unusual. I just hope it finds a following outside the fest as well, mainly so Dauterman can get more chances to pick at our shared traumas.
Body horror meets mumblecore in Mary Dauterman’s feature debut, which follows a young woman whose mourning period includes meowing.