About Utah: If you're dying to watch a film...

Published: Thursday, Jan. 27 2011 10:30 p.m. MST

PARK CITY — I thought I'd take another shot at being a Sundance film critic.

Independent people make films, independent people review them.

In a tradition that dates back all the way to last year, I spent an entire day, and night, randomly screening Sundance Film Festival films. From noon until late, I stood in line with my media pass and watched whatever film was playing next.

And if it's true that things happen in threes, after what happened to me you can say that again, and again.

Because somehow, someway, I managed to see three movies in a row all with the same story line: people wanting to end it all.

What are the odds?

It was more depressing than the Jazz's last road trip.

A masochist would have walked out.

After last year's random reviews, which included a lot of colorful language, I advised: Don't see Sundance films with your mom.

This year's advice: Better bring your mom.

These were the films, in order of appearance:

"How to Die in Oregon." It's a documentary about the 1994 law passed in Oregon that allows doctors to prescribe medication to patients that, if they choose to take them, will kill the patient. It's known otherwise as the Death With Dignity Act, meant to alleviate the suffering of the terminally ill by legalizing physician-aided euthanasia.

The movie is complete propaganda (only one other state, Washington, has passed similar legislation) and features the stories of people in Oregon who signed up for the drug, took it, and apparently were happy about it (although there were no post-game comments).

It's two hours of watching suffering, followed by death, which, in this case, the film suggests is preferable to the alternative. If ever a movie should end with The End, this is the one, but it doesn't.

Next up was "Vampire," the English-language premiere for Japanese cult film director Shunji Iwai.

It's about a modern-day mild-mannered high school biology teacher who also happens to be a vampire and preys for young female victims on a suicide website called side-by-cide. It's "Twilight" with all the life sucked out. Everybody doesn't die in the end, however. The vampire lives.

Out of 10,000 films submitted for consideration in this year's Sundance, this is one of the 200 chosen. Please never make me watch the 9,800 it beat out.

After "Vampire" I was sure it couldn't get any worse, that it was all over.

Then along came "I Melt With You."

At first it looked like a sort of modern remake of "The Big Chill," with four 44-year-old friends from college getting together for their annual get-away reunion.

But then they bring new meaning to the phrase "serious partying."

Fueled by drugs while lamenting their woes, they take Thoreau's quote, "Most men lead lives of quiet desperation," and run with it — not to give anything away — right off a cliff.

The only relief from all this preoccupation with ending it all was a Norwegian "mockumentary" called "The Troll Hunter."

The movie airs rare footage, recently mysteriously discovered, that was filmed by college kids who, wink, wink, followed a man who hunts down trolls in Norway's hinterlands, sparing the unsuspecting populace of a menace the government wants to keep secret.

It's "Shrek" meets "The Blair Witch Project."

When "The Troll Hunter" abruptly ended with the students' shocking, unprecedented footage suddenly going dark, confiscated by who knows who, I crawled out of the theater, inhaled the crisp mountain air and, after a long day, and night, at the movies, headed off to my car, surprisingly invigorated.

Breathing. It's such a simple pleasure.

Lee Benson's About Utah column runs Monday and Friday. E-mail: benson@desnews.com.

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