I’m always late with these year end wrap ups and I almost didn’t do one because looking back, back when I was in the mid-December funk, I couldn’t think of much that I liked in 2011 and of the stuff that I liked, I couldn’t find the words, but there has been a good deal of talk about 2011’s genre offerings over on the old Facebook between us networked movie bloggers and while most of the most of the bloggers are collectively jizzing on the indie darlings of last year’s film fest circuit, I didn’t see any of that shit. Nor do I think I would have given a rat’s ass about any of it anyway. Seriously. If I have to hear one more rave review of ‘We Need To Talk About Kevin’ I’m going to fucking punch someone. So here’s my lowbrow wrap up of 2011’s best trash and cheap thrills.
FUBAR: Balls to the Wall
A lot of Americans love to make sideways jokes about Canada for reasons that I have a hard time putting into words. I work with a dude from Canada and he takes a lot of heat for the fact of his nationality. Not mean spirited heat, mind you, just the usual shit about clubbing baby seals. Thing is, I think Canada is the shit! They’re just like America only not so fat and stupid. They have an ace in the hole, too. Through some kind of historical lottery, Canadians manage to be born with a ridiculous comic potential and even though a lot of the cultural comedy goes right over my head, for instance, dudes from Calgary getting a right proper ribbing from dudes from Vancouver. I don’t get it but I do get a few things and this year one of my top picks was the righteous Canadian riff on Wayne’s World, FUBAR: Balls to the Wall. If any comic duo is heir apparent to the thrones of Bob and Doug McKenzie, it’s Terry and Deaner. FUBAR follows a loose plot about two rocker burnouts who move to the oil fields of Alberta to find what they think is a big paycheck for easy work and while that happens for them, everything else doesn’t really go as planned. It was ruthlessly funny from start to finish as the two dudes can’t spend their paychecks fast enough, a cancer scare produces hilarious results and the bonds of friendship are tested when the town pump comes between them. Good stuff. Total sleeper. Should be an indie comedy classic. Its director, Michael Dowse, has chops and for that I want to see Take Me Home Tonight and cannot wait for his violent hockey comedy, Goon.
Turns out I’m a pretty big fan of James Wan. I like the first Saw flick, I like his Death Wish riff (actually based on the first of Brian Garfield’s novels, which were the basis for the Bronson franchise), Death Sentence and no one was more surprised than me when Insidious actually scared the pants off me. Literally. One minute my pants are on. The next minute they’re in heap next to me and I find myself gripped with fear. It also gave me nightmares. THAT DOES NOT HAPPEN. Ever. Sure, Insidious goes off the rails in the third act and loses its footing but the setup and conflict is positively fucking gripping. The finale was enough to be a deal breaker for a lot of people but I didn’t feel that way at all. Wan was remarkably restrained in his novel approach to the haunted house flick and as I’ve been saying all along, that’s the only way you’re really going to scare people. There were a couple of cheap jump scares but for the most part, Wan’s set ups were enough to let your imagination do the heavy lifting. Insidious left a strong impression on me. I recommend it to everyone.
The Disco Exorcist
Yeah, yeah. Get it out of your systems, skeptics. For the third year in a row, a Richard Griffin movie makes my best of the year list and for the third year in a row I’m sure some sour grapes asshole will call me some kind of shill for Griffin because every one of his movies winds up on my favorites lists. The Disco Exorcist turned out to be scaled way back from its original plan to be shot on nasty old 8mm film stock but it turned out that aesthetic authenticity was, in fact, a disposable commodity seeing as how the flick, from former Cinema S contributor Tony Nunes, was exceptionally fucking funny and, dare I say, smart. The gang’s all here, finally affording Griffin regular, Michael Reed, his moment to shine as a womanizing king of disco who scorns an insecure crazy bitch with a direct line to the dark side in favor of a night with his favorite porn star. Brandon Aponte also turns in one of the funniest characters of the movie, for once not playing an over the top mobster and horror movie drag queen supreme Babette Bombshell turns up mostly out of costume in one of the movie’s funniest scenes. Like most Griffin flicks, the irreverent gags come fast and furious and to its merit, the film leaps forward in terms of film craft, making huge gains over the previous feature, Atomic Brain Invasion, a top pick from 2010. It’s hilarious and unexpectedly sexy.
I never mentioned this but back when Kevin Smith was in the early stages of promoting what would turn out to be his final feature, he opened up his home to movie bloggers since a lot of movie bloggers had this idea that he hated reviewers and chief among them, movie bloggers (like me). To prove the naysayers wrong, his invitation was extended to bloggers big and small and among those invited to his place to see the film was myself. Basically I bugged the shit out of him on Twitter until he pulled me in. I got the details and was about to book a flight to Los Angeles when it turned out that a bunch of writers, pissed off that they didn’t get the invite, called foul, acting like inviting writers to his house to watch the movie was some kind of bribe for good press, and they changed the terms. Maybe it was a bribe. I was certainly captured by the novelty of it all. No longer was it in Smith’s house, though. It was at a screening room in Hollywood and Kevin would not be in attendance. With the novelty of this offer gone, I backed out and sent my friend Wes from American Nonfiction to see it and write about it. He liked it. Months later I saw the movie. I liked it, too. Quite a bit, in fact. Word out of early screenings was that Smith’s horror movie was not actually a horror movie and was some kind of weird siege flick but upon inspection, I came to the conclusion that in spite of what so many writers claimed, Red State was actually a horror movie. In every sense of the term. I’m not sure what everyone was expecting but my shock, surprise and good vibes about the movie seemed to be the common reception. Unsuspecting victims. Morbid and absurd circumstances. A morally ambiguous third party. It definitely felt like the small movie that it set out to be but it was also extremely hard to accept the fact that it was directed by Kevin Smith. The camera actually moves! Shots are tight and expertly composed and there is no sign of Jason Mewes anywhere to be found! I didn’t expect it to hit my best of list but I can’t help it. Red State was the shit!
Hobo With A Shotgun
This list isn’t any sort of order but if I had to put one title at the top of the list, Hobo With A Shotgun might be it. I have a strong aversion to hype, even when that hype is about something I’m likely to appreciate. Hobo With A Shotgun, an expansion on the fake trailer that won that Alamo Grindhouse contest, was on the receiving end of a lot of hype. Even before it started its inevitable film festival rotation, photos and set reports from Halifax were coming out of every one of the internet’s orifices and I am immediately suspicious of that sort of thing. Then trailers dropped and I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. The end-product turned out to be an awesome time machine trip back to the 80’s where five bucks and a seedy little neighborhood video store could occupy your evening with morally reprehensible trash. Hobo With A Shotgun was pure Troma-style fun. It brought to mind the kind of goofy crap that could only exist in Tromaville and evoked other video gems like Street Trash and Frankenhooker. The cherry on top? Rutger Hauer, who made his name in Blade Runner but proliferated under a dozen cheapo action flicks that sunk at box offices but took flight on video shelves. What the world needs now is more outrageous crap like Hobo With A Shotgun.