This post was written in contemplation of the Juxtaposition Blogathon at Pussy Goes Grrr.
In 2008 documentarian Mark Hartley scored an unanticipated film festival hit with Not Quite Hollywood: The Wild, Untold Story of Ozploitation!, an examination of obscure Australian exploitation movies of the 70s and 80s. (Striking while the iron was hot, Hartley rolled out a spiritual sequel of sorts with Machete Maidens Unleashed!, which braved the even more bizarre jungle of Filipino exploitation cinema). 2009 saw another surprise critical success in Best Worst Movie, the story of the disastrous making, and triumphant cult legacy, of the ultra-ridiculous vegetarian-goblin horror movie Troll II, which managed to score an astonishing 95% Fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer. Whatever the reason (maybe its the flowering of seeds planted by Quentin Tarantino), at this moment in time mainstream critics seem eager to recognize, examine, and even embrace the pleasures of schlock. Since the last horror/exploitation doc cycle—the duo of The American Nightmare (2000) and Mau Mau Sex Sex (2001)—came about a decade ago, it appears the time is ripe for another down-home survey of the dark and shady sides of American cinema.
The thesis of Nightmares in Red, White and Blue, the 2009 examination of the American horror film, is that particular social conditions and historical anxieties shape the nature of the shock genre from decade to decade. Brian Yuzna asserts that the variety of disfigured, limbless freaks Lon Chaney specialized in playing in the twenties were inspired by the horrors of World War I and the sights of returning veterans maimed by modern munitions. The viewpoint that American horror is strictly linked to American angst breaks down fairly early Continue reading DOCUMENTARY DOUBLE FEATURE: NIGHTMARES IN RED, WHITE AND BLUE (2009)/AMERICAN GRINDHOUSE (2010)
DIRECTED BY: Lee Demarbre
FEATURING: David Hess, Sasha Grey, Jesse Buck, Michael Berryman, Herschell Gordon Lewis
PLOT: An incompetent horror director discovers he can make realistic gore effects by killing
his critics and co-workers and using their severed body parts as special effects.
WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LIST: With Smash Cut, Jesus Christ Vampire Hunter auteur Lee Demarbre pulls back the weirdness and takes a step towards the conventional (to the extent that a comedic tribute to Herschel Gordon Lewis’ cheesy gore films, featuring a main character who considers a dead stripper in the trunk of his car to be his muse, can be considered mainstream). The results are, frankly, a little boring, though camp gorehounds might find some entertainment here.
COMMENTS: The one sentence plot synopsis tells you all you need to know; there are very few story surprises as Smash Cut unspools. You can figure out that the diabolical director starts to enjoy killing as his megalomania grows, finds it increasingly difficult to cover his tracks as the bodies pile up, and is eventually thwarted by the clean-cut young heroes. Since we know what’s coming, it’s crucial that Smash Cut deliver on the gags (especially the weird gags), and unfortunately this is where the movie falls down on the job. The best parts are the two films-within-the-film, perhaps because they push their deranged style to its limits and stay true to their own madness. The first is director and future serial killer Abel Whitman’s trashterpiece Terror Toy, featuring a ragdoll clown murdering a busty psychiatrist with an ink pen and one of the worst “dangling eyeball” scenes you’ll ever witness. The second featurette is a silent art film created as a mousetrap to try to play on the felonious filmmaker’s sense of guilt. In between those two highlights are some interesting, mildly absurd touches—for example, a “suicide” by harpoon and a minor character who sets army men on fire—and a lot of deliberately unconvincing, campy gore effects (though the scene where Abel extracts eyeballs with a box cutter delivers a significant cringe factor). The acting is inconsistent, which is not necessarily a problem in the overall spoofy enterprise, but Continue reading CAPSULE: SMASH CUT (2009)