Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Review: Dear God No!

A couple of weeks ago, in my review of the killer flick Dead Hooker in a Trunk, I talked about how the thing missing from a lot of the “grindhouse/drive-in/exploitation” throwbacks coming out lately is authenticity. I’m talking about authenticity in look and spirit. I’m talking about movies that understand that those flicks are about more than digitally added grain. Hobo With a Shotgun came close, but it still looked too much like a throwback instead of the genuine article. Dead Hooker in a Trunk didn’t go for the vintage look, but it had the spirit nailed down. Well folks, over the weekend I attended the world premiere of a flick that successfully captures both. It has the look. In fact, it was shot on film with vintage cameras. Does it have the feel? Well, when you see a biker step over an empty PBR box to kick a dead nun into the bushes within the first two minutes, I’d say it’s safe to say that you’re in for a wild ride. You want grindhouse/drive-in authenticity? I’ve got your authenticity right here. The film I speak of is director James Bickert’s bikers vs. Bigfoot opus Dear God, No!

The premiere was a blast. In a bit of William Castle style showmanship, actors from the film were handing out authentic locks of Bigfoot’s hair, skull rings (“…perfect for impressing the scooter trash at your next outlaw biker meet or gang rape”), and these certificates…

Click on the pic so you can read it. It's worth it. Then, as we walked in, something in the theater caught fire and they were handing out posters and apologizing for the smoke. Now that’s how you kick off a premiere! By the way, that poster, featuring art by Hobo with a Shotgun poster artist Tom Hodge, is bad ass. The crowd was raucous and ready to go. Only in a crowd like this will a proud papa stand up, point, and yell “That’s my boy, the fruit of my loins” while said child pisses himself onscreen. These are my kinda people.

Dear God No follows The Impalers, a violent, bloodthirsty, rape and murder crazed outlaw biker gang, or as they are described in the trailer “the 1% of the 1%ers.” Following a shootout at a strip club (where the dancers wear Nixon masks) resulting in one of their own taking a bullet, they decide that it’s time to lay low for a while. After encountering a local couple at a gas station, they track them to the cabin of Dr. Marco, a scientist who is researching Bigfoot. As the Impalers terrorize Dr. Marco, his daughter, and his two guests, the horrifying secret of what lurks in the woods, and what’s locked in the basement, threatens to destroy them all. Madness and mayhem ensues.

First off, the film looks great. I can actually call this one a film in the true sense of the word too as it was shot in 16mm. This is why it looks so much like the 70’s drive-in classics it pays homage to. Other films can shoot digitally and add grain, lines, and fake film defects, but nothing actually looks like film but film. Period. End of story. I have always been a big proponent of the idea that analog always looks much better than digital. There are those who swear that music always sounds best on vinyl. I feel the same way about movies. Film has a warmth, a texture, and a look that digital just can’t replicate. The problem is, it’s much more convenient and a whole hell of a lot cheaper to shoot digitally. It’s just not cost effective for most low budget films to be shot on film. I got different estimates of the film’s actual budget from the director and one of the stars/special effects guys, and was sworn to secrecy by both, but either way, the fact that they got this movie shot on the budget they had is mindblowing. What this low budget, on-film shooting led to was not just a return to the shooting medium of those 70’s classics, but the shooting method as well. What I heard from almost everyone involved was that almost everything was shot only once. One take and move on. This is the way those classic drive-in and grindhouse flicks were shot. The film has a great, unpolished honesty that could only come from shooting the movie cheap and fast, just like in the good old days. It also has some great, unique shots that it would have taken other productions untold takes and ridiculous amounts of time to pull off.

As far as the actual content, it definitely has the “anything goes” philosophy of the Russ Meyer, Herschel Gordon Lewis, Al Adamson, Roger Corman era. Watch for a great Corman reference in the film by the way. Bickert described his film as “imagine early John Waters directing a movie for AIP.” I will say that I don’t think I’ve ever seen a movie from the original drive-in era that went quite this far. I’ll try not to give anything away, but we get the repeated crotch kicking of a dead nun, multiple decapitations, lesbian incest rape, Nazis, tampon shots, children being murdered, coke-line swastikas, and anything else you can imagine. If you are at all squeamish or offendable, just say Dear God No to this one. If depraved weirdness and blood-soaked mayhem is your thing, prepare to experience cinematic nirvana. It also features more of that other beloved 70’s hallmark, gratuitous nudity, than I’ve seen in any movie in years. Yes, that includes Piranha 3d. 31 breasts in all. Kinda makes you proud to be an American, don’t it. The abundant gore is all done practically and it all looks great. It is so refreshing to see old school squibs in the shootout scene instead of the CGI blood splatter that’s so prevalent in recent horror flicks. The soundtrack is excellent, sounding like something that could have easily been released in 1976. They went all out making sure every last detail was period accurate.

While this is a flick that will appeal to the horror crowd, it’s not strictly a horror flick. It’s a biker flick with horror elements, like Werewolves on Wheels or Northville Cemetery Massacre. It starts off like a marauding biker flick. Then they invade the cabin and terrorize the inhabitants. At this point it reminded me of a flick called Fight for your Life, only without the racial overtones. Maybe a better-known example would be House on the Edge of the Park with five David Hesses. Anyway, it then shifts into a combination of monster movie, splatter flick, and acid trip cinema. It is a mashup of many different exploitation subgenres, and they all blend together into a potent and insanely enjoyable cocktail. The film has a wicked sense of humor throughout, but about halfway there is a seismic shift in tone. The rape scene that occurs is intense. I don’t want to give anything away, so I’ll just say that there are some complex juxtapositions going on and just when you think they can’t go any farther, they do. Then it’s right back to the tone of the first half, which is great. It makes that one scene stand out. Serious kudos are due to the actresses in this sequence. What’s impressive though, is that the movie, despite its excesses, works on different levels. It actually does have a heart. They may be buried under a lot of blood and guts, but if you pay attention there are some emotional concepts at play.

I really only have one issue with the flick. During the opening credits sequence of the Impalers riding, they continually play to the camera; looking into it, yelling at it, flipping it off, and making faces directly into the lens. None of the characters was supposed to “be” the camera. I don’t get what the point of breaking the fourth wall like that at the beginning of the film if you’re not going to call back to it later. It just didn’t make sense to me. If that is the only thing a nitpicker like me can complain about in your flick, you’ve certainly done something right.

At the after party, James Bickert told me a great story. There’s a scene in the film involving an exploding van at a drive in. After being told not to include flour in the charge, the man in charge of the stunt did just that. The result was an explosion that was much larger than expected that nearly set the entire drive-in (Starlight Six in Atlanta) on fire. While everyone was freaking out and trying to put the fire out, he saw all of the burning kudzu and decided to take the opportunity to shoot some footage of an actor walking in front of the flames that ended up being used in the film. If that’s not the epitome of DIY, guerrilla, “fly by the seat of your pants” filmmaking, I don’t know what is.

Dear God No is violent, bloody, sleazy, offensive, and in incredibly bad taste…and I wouldn’t want it any other way. It’s a breakneck ride to hell and back that’s got cult classic written all over it. Plus, it’s a homegrown Georgia production with Atlanta talent, and I’m all about that. The filmmakers expect it to be available on DVD in early 2012. Until then it’s on the festival circuit. Be sure to check out their website HERE to find out when it’s going to be playing near you. Those of you who miss down and dirty, pull no punches, sick fun flicks; rejoice, they’re back! This one comes with my highest possible recommendation. Is there any way in hell you should miss this flick? Dear God No! Two severed thumbs up. Nathan says check it out.


Cash Wampum said...

How dare you have access to this kind of trash before me?!!? I don't care if you're an Atlantan or not!! I WANT IN!! DIG?!?!

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