All posts by El Rob Hubbard

366 UNDERGROUND: WRISTS (2010)

366 Underground is an occasional feature that looks at the weird world of contemporary low- and micro-budget cinema, the underbelly of independent film.

DIRECTED BY: John Bradburn

FEATURING: Heather Darcy, Mish Boyko, Dave Rowland, Nicola Hardman, Ellie Clemments, Rhian Green, Sean Harris, Aidan Keenan

PLOT: A woman moves in to an idyllic country house to recover from a traumatic event. One

Still from Wrists (2011)

day she rescues a man from crashing his motorbike. She becomes obsessed with him and is slowly drawn into his world in an experimental narrative that flows through reality, fantasy, fear and imagination along different streams of consciousness.

COMMENTSWrists (official site) is more successful in the experimental realm, in communicating mood, than it is in the narrative, which is pared down to the bare minimum.  There’s not much dialog to clue one in on what’s happening; the first spoken word isn’t heard until 14 minutes into the film.  It’s a novel way to immediately involve the spectator by forcing him to construct what’s going on, but it could take several viewings to get the picture.  In my own case, I was fairly certain for the first 20 or so minutes that some artsy apocalyptic disaster had occurred and that the two main characters would be the only ones in the narrative… until the first car and other character appeared.

While providing a minimum of information to allow the audience to work out things for themselves can be stimulating, it only went so far with Wrists.  Combined with its languid pace, the film was very good at inducing a nap midway through the running time.  Twice.  Your own experience may vary.

That said, I do appreciate the approach that the filmmakers took. I probably would have had a greater love for this film had it been half the length (it’s 86 minutes), or if the director had pandered more to my need for more clues to the concrete narrative, such that provided in the official synopsis below:

Wrists follows Julie as she recovers in an isolated rural cottage. Bored she wanders the countryside and tries to waste time. Hearing a noise outside she rescues a mysterious young man – Clark – from a motorcycle accident.

Slowly she becomes obsessed with him and is drawn in to his dark world. He works in a city collecting debts. Clark has never really thought of escape. In meeting Julie he way have met his saviour.

Wrists is not really that weird—the most successful element is its atmosphere and mood, which is very dreamlike due to the lack of dialog.  It’s almost like being in the minds of the two main characters.  The thing is, the characters don’t really do very much, and what action there is was more conducive to going on the nod than to engaging fully with the film—in my case.

This is John Bradburn’s second feature. His first, Kyle (IMDB), about a young man’s attempt to fit back into society after being released from prison, screened in festivals and small venues, and Wrists will apparently follow the same strategy.

An interview with Bradburn looks in-depth into his aesthetic; he also shared his reactions to Kyle‘s reception at its premiere at the Seattle Film Festival in an article for Vertigo Magazine.

A DVD of Wrists, which comes paired with a zine about the production, is available here.

DISCLAIMER: A DVD copy of this film was provided by the production company for review.

366 UNDERGOUND: SLIMED (2010)

366 Underground is an occasional feature that looks at the weird world of contemporary low- and micro-budget cinema, the underbelly of independent film.

DIRECTED BY: Eric Manche and Jeff Nitzberg

FEATURING:  Jordan Lee, Dustin Triplett, Jessica Borusky, Chris Gorges, Mewgen, Ben Powell

PLOT: Atheist park ranger Rock Rockerson is forced into an unlikely partnership with Bible

Still from Slimed (2011)

salesman PePe in an attempt to save his beloved national park, but they both accidentally discover a sinister and slimey conspiracy that threatens the entire world.

COMMENTS: This did not turn out anything like I expected.  What I expected was another clone of the Evil Dead 2/Troma-esque type of low-budget film, with nudity and pointless gore. Fortunately, Slimed turned out to be much lighter than that.  As a student project/calling card, it’s pretty OK, although at 60 minutes long it would be a much more effective film if it was either shorn about 2/3 of its running time, or had just gone for broke and added 15 more minutes or so to make a full feature.  A good portion of the film’s midsection (where the super-villain and his plan are revealed, leading to an escape and battle with child minions) goes on for far too long, time which could’ve been spent in more escapades with the main characters.

The highlights in terms of weirdness: there’s a magical gateway to a corporation guarded by a depressed wizard cat, the evil super-villain is a puppet mouse who believes he’s human, and his corporate minions are children who have the ability to fly like bats and who explode upon impact.  Additionally, the performances are deliberately skewed and exaggerated, but it comes from trying too hard, rather than any sort of intrinsic weirdness.  It’s like a would-be cult film looking for its cult members, but it’s definitely on the borderline of being a weird film.

Slimed official site

366 UNDERGROUND: THE GRUESOME DEATH OF TOMMY PISTOL (2011)

366 Underground is an occasional feature that looks at the weird world of contemporary low- and micro-budget cinema, the underbelly of independent film.

DIRECTED BY:

FEATURING: Aramis Sartorio, , Vincent Cusimano, Kimberly Kane, Camilla Lim, Karen Sartorio, Gia Paloma

PLOT:  Struggling actor Tommy Pistol isn’t much of a success, but he doesn’t let that hinder

Still from The Gruesome Death of Tommy Pistol

his dream of becoming a star, even when his wife and child leave him.  Left alone with hot dogs, porn and a penis pump, Tommy dreams his dreams of success and stardom, but even in dreams, things don’t turn out as he hopes.  And his reality is just about to get even worse…

COMMENTS:  It’s not inaccurate to call TGDOTP a Troma-esque grossout horror-comedy anthology, but that description leaves out quite a lot. It’s also a cautionary tale about obsession, fame and filmmaking in Los Angeles with autobiographical elements.

Unfolding as a series of dreams, the first, “Snuff Said,” has a young Pistol fresh off the train, answering an ad on a web site to act in a movie.  It turns out to be a snuff film, but Pistol, not being the sharpest tool in the box (so to speak), thinks that it’s just extremely realistic special effects.

The second dream, “10 Minutes of Fame”, sees Pistol sneaking onto a location set of a major film and gradually worming his way to become the assistant of the star—Arnold Schwartzenegger!  He accidently kills Arnie and takes his skin, which gives him the ass-kicking skills to take out the rest of the crew.

In the last dream, “Attack of the Staph Spider”, Tommy is a porn director whose lead actress is bitten by a radioactive spider in the alley just prior to the shoot.  Things do not turn out like “Spiderman,” unfortunately—the actress develops boils and starts leaking addictive fluids, which end up infecting the crew.  Meanwhile, Tommy’s biggest problem is getting the makeup person to make her presentable so the shoot can go on.

The humor is pitch-black; as in most of the Troma-esque lot, the grossness factor is pushed pretty much past the hilt, then doubled.  All of the characters in the dreams are, at their best, amoral to immoral; but in a satire about fame and filmmaking, that’s probably an accurate portrayal.  It also helps that the movie’s pretty damn funny.

What raises TGDOTP a notch above most of its cousins is that the grossness isn’t merely for the sake of grossness—there’s actually some substance behind it.  “Tommy Pistol” is actually Sartorio’s nom de porn when he was acting in adult films such as Repenetrator, The XXXorcist and Neu Wave Hookers.  Deciding to branch out, he made “Staph Spider” as a short, then pursued other opportunities as a struggling actor in Hollywood.  Although his wife did not leave him, many other elements in the film—being late for auditions, getting fired from ‘real’ jobs and dodging creditors—Sartorio probably knows all too well, as well as the other side of Hollywood: sketchy characters willing to do anything to anyone; narcissistic actors; and the desperation and self-delusion of everyone in town, especially those attempting to find their big break.  It may be exaggerated, but there’s a definite sense that there’s some personal experience involved.  The best example is a scene in the first dream, which mocks the aside to camera in JCVD, but also functions in the very same fashion.  And surprisingly, the movie ends in a sad and strangely graceful place, something completely unexpected, and also appreciated.

The acting is strong—better than you would expect in films of this ilk; and tech is pretty good, especially in the effects.  The humor is not going to appeal to everyone, obviously, but those who ‘like it black’ will enjoy it, especially the segment about Schwarzenegger.

Ultimately, it’s not a weird film, despite the over-the-top humor.  Most reviewers have been calling this Troma-esque, and Troma, especially “balls-to-the-wall, everything-and-the-kitchen-sink grossout humor Troma” is just not “weird” anymore.

Even calling it a “horror-comedy’ isn’t quite correct, but a “horror-comedy” is a much easier sell than a “pitch-black Hollywood satire.”

The Gruesome Death of Tommy Pistol facebook page

DISCLAIMER: A copy of this film was provided by the production company for review.