Grace Glowicki-Starrer ’Booger,’ from ‘Everything Everywhere,’ ‘Shiva Baby’ Producers, Boarded by Visit Films (EXCLUSIVE)

Following Montreal’s 2023 Frontières Market, New York sales agent Visit Films has scooped world sales rights to “Booger,” headlining “Strawberry Mansion” star Grace Glowicki and produced by Ley Line Ent. and Neon Heart Ent., behind “Everything Everywhere All at Once” and “Shiva Baby” respectively.

A sometimes excruciating genre bending and blending body horror comedy about intense early adult friendship and grief at its loss, “Booger” is wrapped in a tale of supernatural transformation. Marking the feature debut of Mary Dauterman, it world premiered July 24 in the Underground section of Montreal’s Fantasia Film Festival, the biggest genre fest in North America.

“Booger is produced by Lexi Tannenholtz (Shudder’s “Bad Things”) and executive produced by Neon Heart Productions (“Cora Bora”), Ley Line Entertainment (A24’s “Everything Everywhere All At Once”), Sanctuary Content, One Two Twenty Entertainment (Oscilloscope’s “Joyland”) and Lizzie Shapiro (Utopia’s “Shiva Baby”).

Written by Dauterman, “Booger” continues her exploration of trauma. In her short “Wakey, Wakey,” starring Rachel Sennott, which played Fantasia and Fantastic Fest in 2019, a young girl tries to wake up her boyfriend to throw him out of their flat after a violent argument, but, as the room darkens, the b.f. brings out a big suitcase and packs the girl in it instead. 

Then she wakes up; her b.f. seems loving; he goes to pack, but when he brings out his black suitcase, she stabs him.

Likewise in “Booger” trauma provokes psychosis which tips into genre and fantasy, underscoring the enormousness of what’s causing it, here the death of Anna’s best friend Izzy.  

After Booger, Izzy’s cat, runs away, Anna launches a desperate neighbourhood search to find him; after a cat bite, which creates a festering scar on her hand, her body begins to adopt certain cat characteristics – a hair, for instance, begins to grow out of the wound which, in one of the film’s highnotes of body horror, she tries to pull out.

Meanwhile,  although Anna hardly seems to notice, her work life and relationship with loving boyfriend Max steadily fall apart.

The film also features Garrick Bernard (“Single Drunk Female”), Marcia DeBonis (“Sometimes I Think About Dying,” “13 Going on 30”), Sofia Dobrushin (“WeCrashed”), and admired horror stalwart Heather Matarazzo (“Welcome to the Dollhouse,” “Scream”).  

“‘Booger’ is a disgusting comedy about grief. Or a body horror that’s funny and sad. Or a tragedy that makes you laugh and squirm,” said Dauterman. “It’s the nuanced story I wanted to tell about the joys of friendship, the pain of loss, and the dizzying search back to your center after a crisis. I feel so lucky to partner with Visit to bring ‘Booger’ to the world. Being among the films on their roster is an honor.”  

“Sometimes you watch a movie and say ‘eeeewwww,’ but in a very good way,” said Visit’s President Ryan Kampe. “Mary and Grace have worked on crafting a masterpiece of body-horror and cringe worthy humor. The film fits in very well with our other titles that pioneered moments in cinema like ‘Trash Humpers’ and ‘It Follows,’ and we can’t wait for buyers to join us on this journey.” 

Dauterman’s work has been selected for multiple Vimeo Staff Picks and featured on NoBudge, as well as honored by the Webbys. She has been commissioned by both Adult Swim and Hulu to write and direct shorts for their platforms. Variety chatted to Dauterman just before “Booger’s” world premiere.

The film’s key event, of course, is Anna’s physical transformation. One explanation, if spectators are looking for explanations, is that this suggests the absolutely wrenching transformation of a person who’s left living after the end of such an intense relationship between two female friends such as Anna and Izzy.

Everything that’s going on inside Anna mentally is manifesting physically. She’s never going to be the same after Izzy’s death, so while on one level she’s unaware of what’s going on with her, she can’t ignore it totally because she’s literally vomiting up disgusting hair and bile.

Another reading is that the transformation and desperate search for Booger is one way for Anna to feel closer to Izzy….

Linear time and space aren’t and can’t make sense anymore because she’s rejecting what happened. Memories are kind of free floating and revisited. And Booger feels like a core element that represents their relationship and their having a home together. So she’s grasping so strongly at finding him. The transformation into this creature is definitely her rejection of reality.

The movie’s genre tropes build as Anna declines. Yet that decline is frequently funny, and there are moments of slice of life Brooklyn realism as Anna talks to the landlord or goes round to the local pet shop. This mashup of tones seem to have escalated in recent years in many films: “Strawberry Mansion” would be one instance. In your case, you mix it up constantly, even in single scenes….

It’s a combination of a lot of references and things I like. I also feel that it’s my background, the way I like telling stories, which is normally more visual and surreal. I like bringing humor at surprising times to the supernatural or elevated genre. If you look at my shorts, “Wakey, Wakey” and “Unfinished Business” which is like a supernatural dance film, both of them are tonally a mishmash of genres: Comedy, thriller, horror, supernatural, and that laid the groundwork for my aesthetic.

Which emerges strongly in “Booger”…..

It has a lot of emotional sequences, but a lot of depth of feeling comes from really strange things happening to the character. That’s partially how it was written and how I envisioned it, and partially because Grace Glowicki, the lead actor, is extremely physical and what she can do without any words is incredible. In terms of the mixed tonality, my producer Lexi has been describing it as “Francis Ha” directed by David Cronenberg, which I really love.

Your two main executive production companies are Ley Line Ent. and Neon Heart Ent., behind “Everything Everywhere All at Once” and “Shiva Baby” respectively. How did you attract such companies for your debut?

It really all came from meeting people at film festivals. I have a connection with Neon Heart through a fellow filmmaker friend, Tristan Scott-Behrends, who works there. We met at the Maryland Film Festival years ago as short film filmmakers making weird kinds of midnight shorts. He sent the script to Neon Heart founder Rhianon Jones who was really interested in the story. She was the first person on board and super supportive, which felt incredible because they’ve done some really great work. Then Ley Line came into the picture, when my producer, Lexie Tannenholtz, met Theresa Steele Page at SXSW, and they have been beyond incredible to work with along with Sanctuary Content and One Two Twenty Entertainment. It’s the best team I could ask for. 

They came in based on the screenplay? 

Yes, they all came in based on the screenplay. The entire executive producer team has been so supportive from the start, really trusting my creative vision.

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