Reviews: Senseless Rants from a Picky Sissy
"Ever Tasted It Fresh?"
If you're anything like me (and I hope, for your sake, that you're not), you spend a lot of your time in mom-and-pop video stores hovering around the horror section and making the teenagers behind the counter very, very, very nervous. Sometimes I like to ask for particularly colorful titles by name: "Excuse me, but do you carry Bloodsucking Freaks? No? Hmm... how about Sorority Babes at the Slimeball Bowl-O-Rama? Rape of the Vampire? Fatty Drives the Bus? Darn. What about Baby's Day Out?"
My friends tease me mercilessly about my foraging trips, and I admit that many times I end up renting what turns out to be absolute garbage: enticed by the illustration of a killer cat screaming in frenzy, I rent Blood Feast and am treated to 45 minutes of an Italian in a helicopter flying onto women's patios and waving. Convinced that no one could possibly mess up a movie about a woman with a singing vagina, I rent Chatterbox and have to drink myself to sleep after. This is a crapshoot, folks -- this is gambling in the truest sense of the word. It's not just my $1.50 that is at stake here -- it's a good chunk of my time, and more than that, my expectations and faith in the possibility that somewhere out there lurks an undiscovered or underappreciated gem that just begs to be unearthed and shared with others, that reeks with the stench of years of sitting, untouched, on the same shelf (I have a friend who insists that all video stores smell like carpeting that has had juice spilled on it), without even receiving a second glance from the customers that crowd in for all the new releases (while I was in the store just tonite, a girl in her 20's almost broke down in tears when she learned that Uptown Girls was not available).
Such a film is Savage Weekend. Boasting some of the worst cover art in history, the tape sat there like a Cheshire Cat, smiling at me, winking, begging me to pick it up. My friend laughed and insisted that it would be shit, but I persisted and we took it home. What followed was not perfection, I will admit -- but it is easily one of the strangest and most entertaining things I've seen in a while.
We begin with a standard woman-in-blood-spattered-white-running-through-the-woods thing. She is cornered in a clearing, there is a running chainsaw, and a redneck picks up the chainsaw and approaches her. Cut. Hey, wait a minute -- wasn't that -- rewind that! Sure enough, the redneck in question is Larry from Newhart -- apparently, his brothers Darryl and Darryl are off on other chores at the moment, but here he is, ushering in a parable about the pressures of city life, the brutality of the country, the savagery of man, and the horror of pasty New Yorkers in direct sunlight with their clothes off.
Marie, Shirley, Mac, and Jay live a busy life in the city, and are heading upsate with Nicky, their kept fag, for a vacation. Marie's estranged (or perhaps just strange) husband Greg is staying behind, as he has been having some emotional difficulties lately that a few days off in the country will apparently be no good for (?). He and their son stay behind, and the 5 city slickers head off to a holiday of fishing, picnics, and certain death.
The group hasn't even gotten to their rental house yet when "Mother" Nicky first gets into trouble. The silly queer heads off to a bar while the others get groceries (to "get herself watered"), strutting into the roadhouse in short-shorts with his head held high. He instructs the bartender (the first stupid redneck local that we are to meet) on how to make a martini, hissing like a goose (how many S's are there in martini, anyway?) and arousing the ire of the locals, who of course proceed to tease him with sexual advances. Nicky plays along for a minute, accuses one of the men of having sex with his mother, and then suddenly, without warning, jumps the thugs and starts beating them senseless with anything he can get his hands on -- chairs, pool cues, whatever. After a campy "moment" with the cocktail waitress, he breaks a longneck beer bottle and holds it to one of the hillbillies' necks, spitting at them that he "wasn't raised in the South Bronx for nothin'".
The happy group arrives at their lodging to find a bat nailed to the door. Amused by the token, they apparently think that this is some kind of "welcome to the neighborhood" custom (perhaps the bat had the Torah inside it, and it was therefore good luck?). Oddly, though, the bat stands at this point as a poignant metaphor: for although the winged beast is not flying in this scene, something else is -- oh! It's the boom! Yes, our trusty boom microphone has decided to pay us a long overdue visit by appearing in the top of the frame. Whoop -- and there he goes! Bye, boom! Don't worry, kids -- he'll be back.
The next morning our friends are busying themselves with various activities: Marie and her man-friend are fishing with a local, Shirley is frolicking naked in the field, and Nicky is, naturally, in his room listening to an evangelist on the radio. Otis (Larry) is in a graveyard yelling about boats. Back in the fishing party, we learn from the local that Otis once locked a female cousin in a neck-vice and branded her with an "H" for "(w)Hore". The cityfolk laugh -- such funny, colorful local people. Meanwhile Jay porks Shirley in the field while Nicky watches, squeezing barbed wire until his hands bleed on his gigantic mood ring.
We move onto some plot development; something about the mayor committing suicide and Marie's husband Greg not taking it well. Marie and Mac hump regardless, and whale music accompanies the visual assault of yet another 30-something couple in flagrante dilecto. The next day, Marie makes a move on the local who took them fishing (at this point so many of the male cast members have moustaches that it takes me a moment to put this together), first touching his heavy machinery, then his muscled arm. Even though he was making the moves on her in the fishing boat, he spurns her advances, sending her away, and then smacks down one of his co-worker when he comments about it (oddly, this is one of the same burly men who was beaten up only a few days ago by a 70-pound fairy in his local watering hole). And guess who makes another surprise appearance during this exchange? Mr. boom! He waves from the corner of the screen to let us know that he's still with us and doing great.
We cut to a POV of the killer walking through the house, rifling through the visitors' belongings. We find a fright mask that Shirley picked up at the market and put it on, Halloween-style. We fondle some ladies' panties (could we be the fag?), and pass up a conspicuously placed issue of People magazine that lies on the bed (nope, we can't be the fag).
We return to Marie and her flirtations with the local moustachio, which have reached the levels of French sex farce by this point. She approaches him in the barn, where an oddly-lit pink cow stands, minding her own business. She proceeds to stroke and fondle the cow's udder in a most unladylike manner, and Sam the local asks, "Ever had it fresh?" and proceeds to coax some hot milk from the erect udder into his cupped hand and offer it to Marie, who is thankfully disgusted by this overtly suggestivve act. He instead rubs the milk on her legs and she retreats, apparently no longer interested in Sam and his dairy-air. He tries to force himself on her and squeezes her udders (sadly, no milk this time), but she turns and sees her husband in the hay loft and clubs Sam with a pulley and flees. Yes, her husband. She sees him. Write that down.
Ladies and gentlemen, Boom-shika is back! Shirley and Jay, the pasty porkers, are arguing in the living room as Boom-shika looks on, and Nicky is in the kitchen listening. He drops a pan in protest (his outfit of a pirate shirt and tights might also be a protest of some sort, but I can't say). Jay storms out and is promptly hung in the barn by Maskie. Inside, Shirley and Nicky engage in some sort of perverse Lady Marmalade-style burlesque show that spreads throughout the house and involves Nicky putting on lots of makeup. Marie and Mac hump out in the hayloft and the killer goes into the house. In an odd bit of scoring, tango music is used for a stalk-and-scare scene in which the killer follows Nicky around, and convinces me without a doubt that the clarinet is the least scary instrument available. Nonetheless, Nicky is stabbed in the temple with a hairpin and flops on the floor like a flounder, brandishing his tights-swathed package in a most unladylike manner. The killer then goes for Shirley, still dressed in her floosy outfit, and once he corners her in the basement she fights like a wildcat until he sucker-punches her in the back and ties her to a tablesaw. Unfortunately, the tablesaw is plugged into the wall switch (which is at the top of the stairs) so when he plugs it in nothing happens. Ha ha ha. The killer leaves Shirley tied up and goes after Mac, whom he quickly throws out of the window onto a board filled with nails which was apparently left outside the window for that very purpose. The killer sits down in the kitchenette, exhausted, and takes off his mask -- and what do you know, it's the boom operator! I mean, the husband! Apparently the stress of working for a local politician drove him to it.
Speaking of "drove him to it", the group's only car was borrowed by Sam the local so that he could take his daughter to the movies (all together now... "Awwww....."). In a grand, sweeping gesture of dramatic irony that would be more at home in a Lars von Trier film, we are treated to a short scene in which Sam decides NOT to return the car becase he'd rather get home and get his daughter to sleep. Priceless.
We cut to the next morning: moustached husband and Marie are still in the kitchen, in the exact same places. Meanwhile, the ho is still tied to the tablesaw in the basement, and I would think that her back would be mighty sore by now. Sam the local returns the car in the morning and of course searches the house for signs of life -- including turning on the wall switch to the basement lights. We see Shirley tied to the saw one last time and hear an incredibly loud whale call noise, which is apparently the noise that one makes when split in two. We move outside to a moustache battle: the trimmed, manicured, Perry King-style moustache favored by the successful Manhattanite vs. the long, drawling, Sam Eliot-style handlebar of the yokel. This of course evolves into a chainsaw/machete fight, and of course Sam Eliot wins (sorry, Perry). In an echo of the opening shots, Otis appears, picks up the chainsaw to kill the evil politico, and turns and smiles at the screaming Marie, ending in a freezeframe that shouts "Don't hate me because I'm inbred". Cue Jim Croce knockoff title song, "Upstate Man", and end credits.
As you can see, there's a lot going on here. There's faggotry, pasty-people sex, mutilations, sexual perversions involving cows, rednecks, Jim Croce, and one aggressive boom operator. Is it horribly shot? Yes. Does it lose some serious steam about halfway through? Yes. Is it morally confused, derivative, and offensive? Indeed, yes. But you know what? It's 20 times more sincere, audacious, and entertaining than just about any of the slick-sleeved video boxes that you're going to see on any New Release shelf at your local video store, and for that it deserves our love.