Cut And Run/American Gothic

MARCH 28, 2008


Here’s a first for Horror Movie A Day – A dual review! Why, you may ask?

As has happened a few times before, Blockbuster sent me the wrong movie. I had asked for American Gothic, which is a late 80s inbred horror thing with Rod Steiger. They sent me American Gothic, a short film by some guy named Carlos Batts. “Fine, whatever,” I said to no one in particular, and put in Cut And Run (aka Inferno in Diretta), a Ruggero Deodato film that had a plot similar to that of his Cannibal Holocaust, only it was a conventionally filmed movie, not a ‘mockumentary’. Except the problem is, despite what IMDb claims, it wasn’t really a horror movie at all. But after doing some research, I discovered that the short film WAS horror, so I will combine: Horror (short film), and (full length) Movie A Day!

The horror angle of Cut comes from Michael Berryman, playing a guy who seemingly lives in the river and seeks to murder drug dealers (and pretty much anyone else). His scenes, largely inconsequential in the grand scheme of things, are gory and violent, and could be mistaken for a Hills Have Eyes sequel. And being a Deodato film, the gore is over the top (beheadings, guttings, etc), something you certainly don’t find in many non-horror films. However, the rest of the film is basically an action movie a la Rambo II, in which a couple of folks (including that hot blond from Prince of Darkness) go into the jungle to rescue their friend, and kill a bunch of “bad guys” with automatic weapons and such. Not exactly horror, right?

The cast is also very HMAD friendly. In addition to Berryman and the Prince of Darkness woman (Lisa Blount, for the unnecessary record), we get Karen Black (Burnt Offerings), Leonard Mann (Flowers In The Attic), and Richard Lynch (Halloween remake). Plus the score is by Claudio Simonetti, aka Goblin.

As for the movie itself, well, whatever. 80s action movies of this type sort of just run along on rails, and if you take away the random gore (and Willie Aames’ ridiculous character) you’re left with any old Chuck Norris/Michael Dudikoff movie; the type that I can only appreciate if I grew up with it. Or I’m at the New Bev (this movie would be ideal for that place, actually). The idea of a group of natives going out of their way to kill drug dealers is pretty awesome, but the movie is kind of dull. There’s a lot of stuff that we really don’t need to watch, like Aames and some broad laying out and then lighting a bunch of flimsy runway lights. And for the life of me I can’t figure out what Eric LaSalle’s strip club owner character has to do with anything, or why he is tossed off a platform into a train by two guys we never see again.

Strangely, the end of the film seems to have influenced the execrable Welcome To The Jungle more than Holocaust did. Our heroes are kidnapped and then held hostage by the very man they were seeking (Lynch), who has now become a sort of Kurtz like madman, and the natives all serve under him. The only difference is, this movie had something fucking happen previously, so there wasn’t any need for him to kill off the heroes like in Jungle (which saved any sort of action or violence for this final minute of the film, and even that was mainly offscreen).

Anyway, not too great, but it was a fucking masterpiece compared to American Gothic. While it was certainly more of an actual horror movie than Cut (what with zombies, a guy covered in blood, etc), it was also an utterly awful and pretentious pile of crap.

The thing about experimental films like this that I don’t get is why anyone besides the filmmaker is watching them. They are experiments! Do scientists hold press conferences and then say “OK, we’re gonna try something”? Of course not. They do their experiments in private, and then show us the finish results. Why can’t these films work the same way? No matter, this experiment certainly failed. The idea is fine (the psychological horror behind the creation of Grant Wood’s eponymous painting) but the execution is as botched as anything can possibly be.

Here is the entire 25 minute movie: An old guy talks to himself, a montage of moving images animated with After Effects, a zombie lies on the ground, two zombies dance, three dead chicks play with children’s letter blocks, the old guy begins stabbing himself with his paintbrush while saying “I wandered aimlessly among the living” over and over, more After Effects, credits. Throughout this nonsense we hear some metal songs. In fact the imagery often resembles a Matt Mahurin music video (think "Unforgiven") but without a. the entire song (the metal songs fade in and out at random, or to allow the guy to say “I wandered aimlessly among the living” again) or b. a point being made in a timely manner. Why this needed to be 25 minutes, I have no idea. It’s pretty sad when a short film is padded and overlong.

Oh fuck you, movie.

There was a kid in my film school who made shit like this. Any time we’d have to present our stuff to the class, he’d show his and there would be utter silence (everyone else in the program made films that were more or less accessible). When the teacher asked about it, he wouldn’t even be able to explain it himself. I’m all for being weird or whatever, but the problem is that shit like this can literally be made by anyone. Film a bunch of random shit, edit it with a blender, throw in some “film damage” filters, and viola! Instant art film! And when someone questions it, you can just say “look, you don’t GET IT.” Oh blow it out your ass. If we’re too dumb to understand your masterpiece why’d you show it to us? And in this case, I got the point of it, I just didn’t get why it had to be so long and obtuse. Like the film Gothic, it’s a fascinating idea to me to show the “real” horror behind a well-known work of art, but I don’t see why it’s apparently so difficult to tell this type of story without being a pretentious windbag. I may not have the slightest clue what’s going on at times, but at least David Lynch’s films are nice to look at (save Inland Empire) and reasonably entertaining. This crap is ugly and boring to boot.

Whatever I watch tomorrow better be a full length horror movie or else there will be hell to pay! I’ll grab Michael Berryman and a few machetes and begin wiping out anyone who ever said “Well, my film is CEREBRAL...” in a dismissive manner.

What say you?


  1. Dude. Seriously, experimental film is not that bad. I mean, I've seen some terrible stuff, and I've made some terrible stuff, but it's not all as bad as you claim. And it's not an experiment the same way you'd use it in "science experiment". It's just a name used to classify it. Avant garde is too pretentious for most people. Art film is...sort of the same.

    Equate films to paintings for a second. Not every painting is rendered in exact lines...or perfect brush strokes...and many paintings are not representational of an actual image at all. Music has similar experimental genres, the most "accessible" being maybe Velvet Underground.

    Experimental Film is like a moving painting. It doesn't need to be about anything. It doesn't have to tell a narrative. Ghostface Killah, who I know you don't care for, has said something along the lines of "Sometimes I rap about abstract things. Not every painting has to be of a park bench. Not every rap has to be simple. I'm an artist I know what I mean. Take it as art"

    The end.

  2. Oops, it should read "experimental films LIKE THIS". When it doesn't make narrative sense, AND it's ugly to look at AND it has a fairly understandable/good concept, completely obliterated by the director's compulsive need (as judged by the other, equally bad) to throw any random shit into it, I don't see the point of it (and certainly not releasing it on the market for 19.95 - a freebie on his website is one thing). I consider that robot animation you did to be experimental - that was good.

  3. all right. That's cool. Experimental films like "THIS" works for me.

    Stan Brackage is pretty cool ,he actually had the south park guys as students. Phil Solomon is another good one. Saul Levine. if you want some suggestions...


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