I can’t say I’m especially familiar with Dennis Cooper’s work, having read a grand total of one of his novels (though certainly wanting to explore more of it since having read it). Like Cattle Towards Glow—which is five segments exploring sex, violence, death, voyeurism, kink, etc—undeniably feels like a direct extension of what I’ve read, though there’s something odd about being forced to watch what feels like an amateur putting on screen what works so well textually.
The camera bounces between brilliant placement and abysmal angling, done by someone who wants to lean into art instead of porn and not knowing how to balance the two. The sound work is sketchy at best in every sequence outside
of the noise concert, which appropriately functions as a sensory overload. But the main problem is the performers at the film’s core. They’re appropriately distanced, but their delivery of dialogue is, at times, unintelligible or unbearable (with Larry Clark being the closest point of comparison in the most unfortunate way).
Scenes that get their points across quickly are stretched out beyond belief and Cooper’s words, as spoken by these non-actors, sounds like a parody of his own writing, most offensively in the first and third segments. This isn’t to say that the film doesn’t sometimes work beyond a conceptual level; it is an anthology film after all, and there’s a freedom in the ability to shift away from a narrative into a potentially better one. There’s also a charm to the way Zac Farley and Cooper manage to make the most out of their budget in certain situations, crafting some unique visuals along the way.
The presentation of the noise concert in the second segment is marvelous, as though the camera realizes it can be an active participant in the deviance while also being removed from the action. The same even goes for the fifth short, where numerous cameras, including a drone, are involved. Though admittedly boring at times, the way the this short uses its cameras to explore voyeurism is more intellectually stimulating than any Black Mirror episode that attempts to move through similar territory. And where some of the other segments occasionally veer into becoming a sensory experience—say, large chunks of the fourth short in its silent, snowed-in figures, and the man they seek to claim for their own, as well as the individuals who then seek to prey on them—the shorts tend to veer off into a disappointing territory of stilted monologue delivery.
There’s beauty to be found somewhere within Like Cattle Towards Glow, but it’s buried deep beneath a number of unfortunate decisions. It’s hard not to wonder what some of these could have looked like had Cooper and Farley leaned into the oddities inherent to the content, like Ken Russell or even David Cronenberg could have, but what we’re left with is something that’s more forgettable than anything else, and that’s a damn shame.
Directed by Dennis Cooper and Zac Farley; written by Dennis Cooper and Zac Farley; 99 minutes.