Seven Stages to Achieve Eternal Bliss By Passing Through The Gateway Chosen By The Holy Storsh (2018)

Seven Stages to Achieve Eternal Bliss By Passing Through The Gateway Chosen By The Holy Storsh first published by SciFiNow

Insecure advertiser Claire (Kate Micucci) and her dim, feckless boyfriend Paul (Sam Huntington), both refugees from Ohio, cannot quite believe that the rent on their new LA digs is so low – until they realise that the apartment is regularly invaded by members of a suicide cult keen to meet their end in its bathtub. Baffled but broke, the couple stays on – and as they start to find apparent solutions to their own life problems in the teachings of the cult’s late leader Reginald E. Storsh (Taika Waititi), they also become more and more involved in sending other lost souls his way, whether through assisted suicide, accidental homicide or acts of outright murder. Meanwhile, LAPD detective Bloyce J.P. Cartwright (Dan Harmon) circles, as eager to sell his movie script as to solve any crimes.

Make no mistake: Vivieno Caldinelli’s feature debut is determined to enter your consciousness as a cult film long before it has actually earned the label. Even the ungainly confection of its title overtly positions the viewer as initiate on a long and difficult route to eventual, lasting happiness. In taking us, along with Claire and Paul, through the stages of enlightenment (that formally sub-divide the narrative), the film also, arguably, immunises itself against over-hasty accusations of sloppy incoherence – for if the quirky comedy is hit-and-miss and somewhat rough around the edges, that merely mirrors the rocky road that these two big-thinking small-towners must take to find their ultimate happy place. 

All at once a broad satire of faddish credulity, self-destructive addiction and Angeleno insanity – and a new entry (with James Wan’s Saw, Christian James’ Stalled, and Jaron Henrie-McCrea’s Curtain) in the microgenre of bathroom-focused Psycho-tronic oddities – Caldinelli’s film invites viewers to count the comedy cameos, drink the Kool-Aid and finally find the funny side of their cultic centre. Not everyone will be converted – but those that are may well see the light at the end of the drain.  

Strap Vivieno Caldinelli’s suicide cult comedy has been hard at the bath salts.

© Anton Bitel