Cyclops At The Cinema



I admire meditative films that explore the depth of emotion in a situation — and Shudderbugs is a wonderful example of just such a film. Written, starring, and directed by Johanna Putnam, Shudderbugs is a beautiful, sensitive, and subtle psychological thriller that chronicles a woman’s unraveling psyche as she deals with the death of her mother.

I’m not the only one to be smitten — the film has won several awards — including the Indie Spirit, Rising Star (Naples International Film Fest), Best Actress (Kansas City Film Fest), Best Director, Best Screenplay (Idyllwild International Fest), Indie Auteur of the Year (Bare Bones International Film Fest), Festival Director’s Choice (Cinema on the Bayou), and Special Jury Mention (Oxford Film Fest). I’m certain that there are more awards to come for this one!

Shudderbugs opens with a soundscape that envelops the mind before the visuals start, finding its way to the question, ‘Miss Cole…Miss Cole, do you know where you’re going?’ and this is the very question we spend exploring with Sam Cole (Johanna Putnam) throughout Shudderbugs. The layered, compelling sounds and bright image of Sam staring upwards at us feels Lynchian, and that feeling continues as the score seeps in and we see Sam driving through a rural landscape. The deliberate and pacing of Shudderbugs allows for an air of disquiet as Sam approaches her childhood home.

Sam’s mother died suddenly, but that isn’t the only mystery that Sam discovers once she arrives at the house. The mysteries continue as Sam explores her childhood home, where her mother’s presence and intentions are felt throughout. While this was her home, the score, soundscape, and atmosphere make it feel instead like a liminal space residing between her childhood and her future that she must traverse. She finds things never before seen and things missing, and is left with more questions than when she arrived.

Shudderbugs poster, Used with permission.

The creeping feeling of dread mounts as she interacts with her only neighbor, Noah, played by Brennan Brooks, who is also the…



Jamie Toth, The Somewhat Cyclops

I write about independent movies, tarot, consumer safety, and more. Contact me: