Annie the Kid: Kid-Thing

07/31/2013 4:00 AM |

Directed by David Zellner

This strange and haunting film, filmed in and around Austin, spends most of its time studying the time-killing pastimes of an unsupervised and friendless kid, Annie (Sydney Aguirre): pulling pranks, shoplifting, riding bikes, killing bugs, fighting with other kids, playing video games, smashing shit, blowing up bananas with firecrackers, watching her dad, a goat farmer and demolition-derby driver, hypnotize a chicken with a piece of chalk, scratch off lottery tickets, or pass out drunk. But then one day in a remote corner of some woods she hears a woman screaming for help… from the bottom of a 25-foot well! Annie will return several times to the well, bringing peanut butter-and-jelly sandwiches, Capri Suns and toilet paper. But she doesn’t tell an adult, and she doesn’t get any help.

That’s the central mystery of the movie, left ambiguous. Does she really believe the strange religious superstition she occasionally voices, that the woman, Esther (Susan Tyrrell, a “bizarre, gloriously one-of-a-kind Hollywood gypsy,” per IMDb, in her final role), could be the Devil, or a soul trying to trick Annie into helping her escape from hell? Is it out of fear? Confusion? Petty indignation? Or is it a fundamental desire to have a friend, one that can’t abandon her (because she’s imprisoned in a well)? Kid-Thing comes into focus as a portrait of juvenescent loneliness—and of the weird, sad, mean things it makes us do.

Opens August 7 at IFC Center