In the early ’90s, Steve Hanft made a no-budge American art comedy about a stock car racer manqué trying to break a cycle of failures. It’s a very lo-fi, low key affair. The lackadaisical plot, shooting style (blown out, grainy 16mm), garage surf score and non-acting all work in the film’s favor, creating what can only be described as a pure slacker aesthetic. Chance the driver wanders through the film in a daze, through a series of episodes that revolve around raising money to fix up his car and win back his girl. She’s moved on. The world has moved on. Chance is doomed to fail in an eternal loop he will never escape. Hanft made a charmingly disheveled film, made better by its limitations.
About six years ago, I found myself living in Ventura County, working as a delivery driver for a pharmacy. I made many long distance runs to Fillmore, Santa Paula, Simi Valley and Moorpark, where this film takes place. A strange inland limbo, just west of the valley, separated from the Pacific Ocean, Malibu and the PCH by the Santa Monica mountains. A place “on the other side” where nothing is happening; where time crawls and hope slithers on its belly. A nursing home for dreams and ambitions. At least what I’ve seen of it. The images and sounds of Kill the Moonlight steeped heavily in my mind whilst driving those dusty, sun bleached roads.
Kill the Moonlight is most famous for the line “I’m a driver, I’m a winner. Things are gonna change I can feel it.” It’s a wonderful chronicle of a time and place, of a disoriented hero sleepwalking through life and encountering all kinds of marginilized west coast burn-outs along the way.