CHICAGO – If you can remember the 1990s outside of childhood, you are in the glow of middle age, so congratulations. The Brown Paper Box Co. theater ensemble takes us back to those thrilling days of yesteryear with “Spike Heels,” a relationship comedy centering on the co-mingling antics of two couples, with a slight nod toward George Bernard Shaw and the play “Pygmalion” (or its musical counterpart, “My Fair Lady”).
‘Father’s Day’ is Grindhouse Holiday From Normalcy
CHICAGO – If the word Troma means nothing to you, then you may want to avoid “Father’s Day,” a truly twisted and sadistic slice of horror-comedy that makes other recent attempts at grindhouse insanity (“Machete,” “Hobo with a Shotgun”) look “The Help.” It’s a bit inconsistent (especially in the first act) but the sheer balls-to-the-wall (literally) approach to filmmaking here is so far over-the-top that one has to admire the audacity of the filmmakers, a quintet that goes by the name Astron-6.
How simply crazy is “Father’s Day”? You mean outside of the fact that it’s about a serial killer named Fuchman (pronounced how fans of Troma films like “The Toxic Avenger” and “Class of Nuke ‘Em High” will know it should be pronounced) who rapes, dismembers, and kills fathers? Hmmm. Where to start? “Father’s Day” features things that you probably think you’ll never see on film (and much of America would say you never should). Like a serial killer slicing a man’s throat and, while he’s bleeding to death, chomping off his penis. Or injecting drugs into his own penile member before mutilating it. Intestines, puke, incest, and buckets of blood — “Father’s Day” is remarkably crazy even in grindhouse terms. It doesn’t quite have the whimsy of the best of Troma (especially in the first reel), but I’d take it over many of the high-profile attempts at grindhouse horror and it’s even more remarkable when one considers that the legendary company gave Astron-6 $10,000 to make it. I’m slightly terrified to think of what they could do with $10 million.
Photo credit: Troma
Believe it or not, despite the ludicrous gore, “Father’s Day” is also pretty damn funny. The first act takes itself WAY too seriously (and the opening scene, featuring Fuchman using a decapitated head to give himself oral is too dark a note on which to open the film) but it clicks into a gear somewhere around the 30-minute mark when the three heroes of the piece have been united. “Father’s Day” is a film about a priest, a gay prostitute, and a one-eyed vigilante trying to stop not just a male-raping serial killer but a centuries-old creature from Hell (the Fuchmannicus, of course). The story is SO increasingly crazy (incorporating drug-induced dream sequences and trips to Heaven and Hell) that one has to simply admire the insanity of the accomplishment. The film should be 80 minutes but runs 100 instead and I would have cut most of that from the too-intense first act, but “Father’s Day” should still connect with the target audience for which it was created.
Ahab (the movie-stealing and quite good Adam Brooks) is a patch-wearing vigilante who crossed paths with Fuchmann in the past and has returned to capture his white whale (Herman Melville would be so proud). After the street whore Twink (Conor Sweeney) loses his own father to the killer, the two join up, accompanied by Father John (Matthew Kennedy), a young priest with a connection to the evil of Fuchman. Ahab’s sister gets involved in the insanity and the bodies pile up as the insane homage to ’70s and ’80s extreme filmmaking builds up a remarkable head of steam. There are laugh-out-loud moments, such as when Ahab and John have a great conversation about a maple syrup metaphor, how Ahab reacts when he catches up to Fuchman, and an awesome vision of Heaven, that are smarter than anything in “Machete.” Of course, not all of the jokes connect, but enough of them do to alleviate most of the gruesome aspects of the story. They should have started with Ahab instead of the brutal prologue and Twink’s introduction as it is Brooks’ charisma that largely carries the film much further than the first act implies it will go.
Photo credit: Troma
It should be noted that “Father’s Day” is shot and produced like a grindhouse flick in more than just story, including film that looks battered, a horrendous soundtrack, and even a commercial break for another Astron-6 movie (“Star Raiders,” which I would totally see). Some of the less-than-stellar acting in the supporting cast feels almost intentional and the cheesy dialogue can often be excused as genre consistency. But none of the C-movie elements of the film bothered me too much. I was a bit tired of the grindhouse resurgence after Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino’s movie. Leave it to Troma to wake me up again.
“Father’s Day” is playing midnight shows this weekend in New York and Minneapolis, doing the same thing in Denver, Brookline, Los Angeles, Saskataoon, San Diego, Columbus, Dallas, Washington DC, Oak Cliff, and Seattle over the next two months. No word yet on Chicago dates. Write your Alderman.