Jeremy Reyes in Baphomet Mountain

★★ (out of four)
DIRECTED BY Austin Burnette Mitchell and Jeremy Reyes
STARS Jeremy Reyes, Austin Burnette Mitchell

Criticizing a film like Baphomet Mountain is akin to kicking a puppy or tripping a senior citizen. The production notes reveal that writer-director-producer-stars Austin Burnette Mitchell and Jeremy Reyes spent four years of their lives making this movie, stating in the production notes that the film was “the first wild cry of two artists who are yearning to be heard” and that “it is the pinnacle achievement of our lives.” Yikes.

Reyes plays Jesus Boy, a Bible-thumping zealot who claims that his brother has been kidnapped by a group that worships the satanic god Baphomet. He comes across Country Boy (Mitchell), a secularist who nevertheless might be able to help Jesus Boy in his quest. But there are plenty of detours before the pair make it to the titular structure, as Jesus Boy is inclined to rant and rave at anyone who crosses his path, even the members of a Bible study group.

On the positive side, Baphomet Mountain looks great for a low-budget indie effort, with the trio of cinematographers (Mitchell and Reyes, plus Franz Salvatierra) offering some lovely outdoor vistas to go along with the more experimental inside shots (the movie’s title would seem to be a nod to Alejandro Jodorowsky’s surreal cult hit The Holy Mountain). And the plot isn’t without promise, particularly given the differences between the odd couple at its center.

But it was no surprise to learn that 90 percent of the picture was totally improvised. There’s a reason nearly all filmmakers work from a script, and improvisation is best left to professionals like Mike Leigh, John Cassavetes and Christopher Guest. The decision to make this film up as it went along was an unfortunate one, since it becomes a chore to sit through the umpteenth time that Jesus Boy rambles on about his religion or screams at those around him. He’s an insufferable character (well, unless one is a fan of those evangelical megachurch hypocrites), and some planning ahead might have led to the creation of a more nuanced and interesting character. Country Boy fares a bit better, although even he doesn’t know when to come up for air during a couple of arid monologues.

Baphomet Mountain suggests a work that possibly might have been a personal project for its creators, perhaps a way to work out some feelings or thoughts through a cathartic cinematic vehicle. In that respect, the finished feature can be considered a success for its makers. But those outsiders who spring for a viewing and can’t get on its wavelength may ultimately feel that there’s the devil to pay.

(Baphomet Mountain is available on Amazon Prime.)

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