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DIRECTED BY: Gary Huggins
FEATURING: Santiago Vasquez, Ramone Armstrong, Matthew Stathas
PLOT: A guidance counselor has a rough evening in Kansas City, KS when he agrees to attend a karate session with a troublesome student.
COMMENTS: The pedigree of the “dream quest” is probably as old as the art of story-telling. The logic of dreams is peculiar: situation A leads to situation B leads to situation C, and so on; each link in the chain has a logical connection, but when you take a step back and look at it as a whole, the events make little sense. Much to this guidance counselor’s dismay, his evening is no dream. Its manic and unsettling events are jarringly remote from his plans, and when viewed in its totality, one can’t but wonder how this nightmare hangs together.
Santiago Vasquez (Santiago Vasquez) is a guidance counselor residing in Kansas City, MO. He begins his day with an amiable professionalism as resolute as his grin is toothy. He is having difficulty with an intelligent but wayward student, Luther (Ramone Armstrong), who is in trouble with both the school authorities and a local thug named “Blitz” (Matthew Stathas). Despite a prior engagement at a talent show in a local church, Santiago agrees to attend a karate class with Luther. But after the lesson is interrupted by Blitz’s goons, bloody mayhem ensues.
Huggins probably likes his hero, but seems to have a lot of anger. Kick Me overflows with oddball violence foisted upon its oddball cast. Santiago endures countless humiliations (violent ones) as he travels near-naked through the wild nighttime of down-at-the-heels Kansas City (KS) : a squicky encounter with some clients of “RVlove.com”, a furtive pitter-patter through a derelict mall where a gored man is unable to die, a run-in with a wizened hobo by his huff-bag tree, all culminating with a boss-fight on the church balcony with Blitz. Blood, blood, blood is everywhere; at least in Kansas City, KS.
Hit Me isn’t quite my kind of movie, but I know who its audience is, and also know there are plenty out there who will get a kick from this Odyssian journey through mayhem. Huggins is often unkind to his creations, but somehow avoids coming across as cruel. His sense of humor helps a great deal (my favorite example being the closing credits referring to a character as the “Malled Man”), as does his filmmaking prowess. Tension builds masterfully in the would-be disaster sequence after Santiago buys a bunny, and the loping cinematography slips lackadaisical giddiness into the fore when Santiago and a co-worker toke up in back of a gliding pick up truck. Santiago shouts and squeals and fights and kills—and though there are an impressive number of three-legged dogs wandering these mean streets, the counselor’s nightmare spares them further injury.
Kick Me next plays at the Panic Film Festival in Kansas City on April 19 (already sold out). For more, see our webcast discussion with writer/director Gary Huggins.
WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:
“…[a] dark, daffy, horror-adjacent comedy — the horror of which ranges from the threat of death to existential dread to simply having to deal with the Sartrean hell of other people, and beyond.” -Joseph Perry, Scariest Things (festival screening)