Clean, Shaven (1994), dir. Lodge Kerigan
starring: Peter Green as Peter Winter, Megan Owen as Mrs. Winter, Robert Albert as Detective Jack McNally
Synopsis: Peter Winter, a schizophrenic man cruises around the rural area of upstate New York looking for his daughter. Detective Jack McNally sets his sights on Peter as the prime suspect in the investigation of an unrelated murder of a young girl. Just when Peter finds his daughter, alive and well, Jack McNally has already got him captive. Will this be the last time Peter sees Nicole?
Part character-study, part psychological thriller, this suspenseful film’s main appeal is its portrayal of the subjective perspective of its mentally afflicted protagonist. Peter suffers from schizophrenia, although the word is never mentioned, we are let into his mental space through voices that come in and out , weather reports, radio transmissions, and a score by Hahn Rowe that is as atmospheric as it is horrifying. The rural setting, with its run down small houses and its wide empty spaces is haunting, reminiscent of the wood cabins and forests of horror films.
Peter lives out of his car. He searches for his daughter during the day and at night, he sleeps in the backseat. He covers his vehicle in newspaper, concealing the view inside his car but also reflecting the inherent madness in his psyche. Newspapers are full of stories about mentally ill people committing violent crimes. The same kind of crimes detective Jack McNally just happens to be investigating. The presence of newspapers all over Peter’s car suggest that the source of his madness is ingrained in the social fabric.
As we witness Peter’s torment heighten in tension, we also see detective Jack McNally gather clues about Peter’s possible involvement in the murder of a young girl. His sociopathic behavior (he sleeps with his witnesses, he refuses to intervene during a robbery) reveals that he just might be crazy himself.
Today more than ever, war is no longer something distant that we only hear about in news reports. It is geographically closer. It has come to our street corners. This film by Lodge Kerrigan is a vivid expose of the failure of the social apparatus to eradicate violence from its social fabric. “Clean, Shaven” is a well-crafted film but with its boldness in subject matter and its cynical realistic outlook on the world, will only appeal to a very few. Although the convincing sense of urgency of its argument makes it a provocative force in the sea of mass media messages that it directly critiques.