From Crestone (2020), dir. Marnie Ellen Hertzler (image courtesy MEMORY)

Crestone was made before the pandemic — indeed, it premiered just before the US lockdown, at True/False 2020, the last US film festival to date to be held entirely in person. So the fact that it opens with director Marnie Ellen Hertzler intoning in voiceover, “This movie is about the end of the world” is eerie, to say the least. It is a pre-COVID work that’s perfectly suited for the time in which it now appears, a continually offbeat look at friendship and artistic creation.

Several of Hertzler’s friends from high school formed a Soundcloud rap group called Deadgod, and they have since graduation started a slapdash commune in the desert near Crestone, Colorado. In the film, Hertzler stays with the eccentric bros for a week, capturing how they live (messily) and the music they make (pretty compelling, though your mileage 0bviously may vary on Soundcloud rap). But it’s not merely an observational doc; the vibes are … off. The guys are of course aware of and constantly posturing for the camera, but there are other, more sinister fabricated elements that bend the film’s reality. Emergency alerts play constantly on the TV, along with news of an encroaching wildfire. The result is an odd but riveting mixture of chillness and dread, a hangout movie with a sense of doom hanging over it.

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Crestone is now available on VOD.

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Dan Schindel

Dan Schindel is Associate Editor for Documentary at Hyperallergic. You can find his all his links and public profiles here.