Monday, August 15, 2011

Mini Reviews: Teeth and Brutal Massacre: A Comedy

Teeth -

When I was in film school, one of the things that struck me as ridiculous was how much emphasis is put on Freudian imagery in films. It seems that most film academics think of every plot, character, scene, set, or action in terms of sex or gender roles. They like to ascribe a psychosexual meaning whether it’s really there or not. Well, here’s their dream film where those elements are front and center. I’m not sure why this was marketed like a horror flick though. This is a comedy, albeit with some gore here and there. Oh, and by the way, nine out of ten reviews I’ve read of this movie haven’t been able to resist the phrase “every man’s worst nightmare.” Clever the first hundred times guys. Jeez.

Dawn is a leader in the purity and abstinence movement at her church. She takes her virginity seriously. She may have very high standards, or it may just have something to do with the fact that she has vagina dentate. Basically, “her flaxen quim, the winking eye of God” (somebody’s gotta get that reference) has razor sharp teeth sure to put a damper on any potential coital activities. She meets a boy and feels that old familiar stirring in her loins. She takes that whole purity thing a lot more seriously than he does, however, and he tries to rape her. The toothy ‘tang has other ideas though. I think you see where this is going. For the rest of the flick we follow Dawn as she deals with the unique challenge of dealing with her awakening sexuality while possessing a chocha with chompers.

This is a pretty good flick. There are parts of it that are hilarious. It works great as a send up of the “true love waits” movement and a bizarre sex comedy. It features a couple of good performances, particularly by Jess Weixler as Dawn. She carries the film. This could have been a very one-dimensional character, but she brought out a lot of complexity and nuance. I was quite impressed, and I see very good things ahead for her.

The problem with this movie is that the joke wears thin about halfway through. By the time the biting box claims its fourth victim, it’s not funny, shocking, or even cringe inducing any more. With the funniness worn off, all we’re left with is heavy handed social commentary and feminist film theory. If the movie had something to underlie the thin premise, it would have been better. Maybe if it had gone in a more exploitative direction it would have had more substance. Perhaps if the obvious Cronenbergian tone of the central conceit had been explored, there would have been something left when the novelty of a poonani with pearly whites lost its flavor. Nevertheless, it is entertaining for the most part, features a wonderful central performance, has a couple of laugh out loud moments, and I loved the ending. Those severed penises are gnarley looking too. When that first castration scene comes on, look around the room and see how many of the guys cross their legs. One severed thumb up. Nathan says check it out.

Brutal Massacre: A Comedy -

The cover of the DVD features a quote from Fangoria.com calling Brutal Massacre “This is Spinal Tap for horror.” That’s quite an accolade. After watching this flick, I can say that it is a very fitting comparison. Brutal Massacre is freakin’ hilarious, it certainly has the feel of a Christopher Guest movie, and it is just as rewatchable. It’s also the most fun I’ve had watching a movie in a while.

The mockumentary follows has-been horror auteur Harry Penderecki (David Naughton), the creative force behind such classics as Sasquatch at the Mall and I’ll Take the Ring Back…and the Finger Too, as he makes what he believes will be both his masterpiece and his comeback, Brutal Massacre. Penderecki is convinced that an evil spirit is following him and bringing misfortune down upon his film. As a documentary crew records the shoot, it would be hard to refute his theory. Whatever can go wrong does, and the mishaps get more outrageous and ridiculous the closer the film comes to wrapping. Will this doomed flick ever see the light of day?

This movie is downright hysterical. I really hesitate to call it a horror comedy, because there really aren’t any horrific elements per se. Well, there are horrific elements, but they're not dealt with in a horrific way. You know what I'm saying. It’s more like a comedy about making a horror film. You can tell that writer/director Stevan Mena is a fan as well as a filmmaker. The conventions of the genre, and genre filmmaking in particular, are so skillfully skewered that a true knowledge of the subject matter is definitely evident.

Horror fans will recognize a who’s who of familiar faces, including Ken Foree (Dawn of the Dead, From Beyond, etc.), David Naughton (An American Werewolf in London), Gunnar Hanson (Texas Chainsaw Massacre), and the lovely ladies of Evil Dead, Ellen Sandweiss, Betsy Baker, and Theresa Tilly. Even Mick Garris drops in for a cameo. Comedy veterans Brian O’Halloran (Clerks) and Gerry Bednob (40 Year Old Virgin) add to this amazing cast. Really, look at that list, that’s one hell of a cast! Everyone is on point too. With the exception of an absurdly over the top (and really funny) performance by Hanson, everyone plays it completely straight. If there had been any “wink wink” at the camera, this wouldn’t have worked nearly as good.

Honestly, and this doesn’t happen often, I don’t have anything bad to say about this movie. If it has one downfall, it’s that non-horror fans might not get some of the jokes. Enough of it works on a broader comedy level, though, that it doesn’t really matter. I don’t want to say anything else about the flick because I don’t want to give anything away. It’s something you have to see for yourself. If you love horror movies, if you’ve ever been involved in making any kind of movie, or if you just like “comedy of errors” type movies, this one is for you. Two severed thumbs up. Nathan says check it out.

1 comment:

Dr. Jimmy Terror said...

Nice Quills reference. Geoffrey Rush needs to do more horror, non remake pictures.

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