FEATURING: Aramis Sartorio, Thea Martin, Brett Hundley, David Reynolds, John Karyus, Karen Sartorio, Vincent Cusimano, Tom Devlin, Damon Packard, Evan Stone, Debbie Rochon
PLOT: Everyone hates Frank. Especially his wife Katie and his best frienemy Tommy Spioch, who asked to crash on their couch two years ago and never left. Tommy spends most of his time lusting after Katie who seems to hate him just as much as she hates Frank. Frank’s existence is stupid. After two possibly accidental homicides, two kidnappings and a visit from a talking spider, Frankie’s world is turned upside down as he drifts through Blunderland searching for his missing wife.
COMMENTS: The second feature from Caleb Emerson (Die, You Zobie Bastards!), Frankie in Blunderland shows a modicum of restraint compared to the previous film—it’s a bit more structured than the ‘everything and the kitchen sink’ approach of Bastards, yet it pumps up the surrealism.
Scripted by Marta Estirado (who appears in the film and died shortly after principal shooting was finished), Blunderland plays as a post-modern L.A. hipster bounce on Lewis Carroll’s well known tale, and possibly “The Odyssey” as well. Aramis Sartorio (The Gruesome Death of Tommy Pistol) plays Frank, a loser who’s not so loveable, and who, truth be told, is probably his own main problem. Despite everything, Frankie still believes that things can only get better, even after two possible murders, and the kidnapping of his wife, which leads him to wander the Blunderland landscape (AKA L.A.) looking for her and encountering various other misfits and oddkins such as a hobo prophet (John Karyus), a Mormon missionary who may actually be a space alien ( John Christopher Morton), lesbian robots, oracle spiders (Debbie Rochon), and just plain slackers all of whom either help or hinder his search for Katie.
Blunderland would make be a good double-bill companion with Tommy Pistol, in that both are absurdist looks at life in The City of Angles (and they share some of the same actors). It’s a good candidate for The List mainly for its visual style and cast of crazy characters, but also because it’s an anti Rom-Com that’s actually successful and doesn’t cop out at the end.
Aramis Sartario and screenwriter Marta Estirado (R.I.P.)
FEATURING: Aramis Sartorio, Caleb Emerson, 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
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.”