THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan
I went to college in the late 80s, and Troma movies were a very big deal. We used to go to the local video store to rent them, then crowd around the tiny 12-inch TV set in my dorm room for an evening of viewing. The formula is always pretty much the same: an outrageous premise, tongue-in-cheek humor, and cheesy special effects juxtaposed with very detailed blood and gore. The company's latest, Father's Day, carries on that proud tradition. Please keep in mind that I cannot review this picture as I would a normal film. Watching a Troma movie is not a quest for good storytelling, or interesting characters, or deep themes. It is a quest to witness cinematic insanity. And Father's Day is very insane.
The plot revolves around three men banding together to capture Chris Fuchman, a.k.a. the Father's Day Killer, a psychopath who rapes and murders dads. (He sometimes eats their genitalia, for what it's worth.) There's a young priest named Father John (Matthew Kennedy); a street hustler named Twink (Conor Sweeney), whose own father disapproves of his homosexuality; and Ahab (Adam Brooks), a dangerous loner who tried unsuccessfully to catch the killer in the past. Their mission takes them through strip clubs, dark alleys, and eventually into Hell itself. Ultimately, they discover that Fuchman (get it?) isn't just a lone nut, but rather part of something much more demonic and sinister.
Father's Day is the latest in a series of films to pay homage to the exploitation genre of the 1970s and 1980s. As with the Quentin Tarantino/Robert Rodriguez Grindhouse collaboration, it has a deliberately cheap look. The movie is presented as though you're watching a late night cable horror show that someone has taped and rewatched a few times too many on VHS. After a station intro, we get the main feature, complete with grainy, degraded images and choppy edits. Later on, the action stops for a commercial break, in which we watch clips from the next feature, a hilarious super-cheesy Star Wars ripoff called Star Raiders.
People who didn't grow up watching grindhouse flicks in theaters or on cable/VHS may not be able to relate, but to those of us who did, Father's Day faithfully recreates the feel. Aesthetically, the directing team known as Astron-6 (which includes several of the major cast members) gets a lot of things right. I like how the movie finds room for both the unapologetic goriness of a typical 80s Troma flick and, in the third act, a Ray Harryhausen-inspired vision of Hell. The filmmakers have clearly absorbed a lot of different types of exploitation fare, then mingled them all together to end up with their own weirdly unique creation. There's even a well-staged car chase, which is all the more impressive for the fact that it looks like the actors did their own stunts without any sort of safety equipment.
I laughed a lot at Father's Day, if you can believe it. The film has a delightfully off-kilter sense of humor. For example, when Father John is told that Ahab can be found far away from here, there's a montage of him traversing jungles, beaches, and arctic environments, before ending up at a simple cabin in the woods. You also get a chainsaw-wielding stripper, a hero who is quasi-obsessed with maple syrup, and an all-too-appropriate cameo from a face that will be familiar to any respectable Troma fan. The humor in the movie really works.
Of course, the violence is extreme, but Troma fans want that. The Astron-6 guys devise all kinds of gruesome things, including but not limited to severed male genitalia, a sliced eyeball, a chainsaw being used on someone's face, disembowelment, and a person getting cut in half. Those with sensitive stomachs need not apply. I mention the nature of the violence only because, to someone inclined to see a film such as this, it's a selling point.
As I said, one does not judge a Troma movie by ordinary standards. They are not good in the same way that a mainstream Hollywood movie might be good; they are good by being as insane as possible. Father's Day occasionally wore me down with its envelope-pushing gore, and I found some of the religious humor a bit offensive. Still, the picture works as an entry in the Troma canon. It's gory, sick, depraved, funny, self-knowingly silly, and entertaining if you're in the right frame of mind. It succeeds in doing the exact thing it sets out to do, whether you feel that's a respectable goal or not. Father's Day obviously won't be for everyone, but for fans of Troma and/or oddball genre pictures, it's definitely one to catch.
( out of four)
Father's Day is unrated, but contains copious amounts of violence, blood, gore, nudity, sex, and language. The running time is 1 hour and 40 minutes.
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