WRITER/DIRECTOR/EDITOR: Johann Tetreault
STARRING: Rick Jones, Sara Trojan
The first film’s sicko falls off the murder wagon. Again.
Johann Tetreault’s stark stylishness pounces several minutes into the film, not with a ghastly scene of misogyny but with a softcore sex scene with the raw attitude of a porno movie. The scene, and even the film at large, employs simple but striking visual techniques, curious soundtracking via moody mid-tempo techno, rugged sex play, a sort of subliminal brutality to the fucking, and other straightforwardly effective audio-visual devices. This makes for the distinctive viewing experience that comes with sitting down to a Tetreault picture. Well, that along with the writer-director’s unusual structural engineering when it comes to building his story arcs. At least one can say the viewer is left always wondering where the film is going. Tetreault’s storytelling directions aren’t obvious. Once at the end, one isn’t surprised where things have ended up, but neither can one say he or she knew exactly where things were heading, toward what denouement events were building. The SICKO side of HOMICIDAL MANIAC 2: SICKO doesn’t come immediately. Now a veteran of Cinema Tetreault, I know to expect this gradual build to a boil. But for the purposes of so-called exploitation (I hate that word), the aforementioned frank sexuality keeps the pot stirred, not just in the form of the heady sex scene but also by dint of a shower immediately afterward – sex AND a shower scene back to back! – and a visit to a titty bar later. Then shit gets nuts, or starts to anyway, when the titular sicko goes psycho in said titty bar. He assaults more than one person, absconding with a sucker-punched stripper. Into the trunk with her! And now we Tetreaultogists know we’re falling down the rabbit hole previously visited in the first installment of the HOMICIDAL MANIAC franchise. And, with this outburst occurring at around 20 minutes in, Tetreault is stepping things up from the more typical deliberate pacing with which he tends to grace his films’ first halves. Not a gripe, by the way, merely an observation. If you don’t have an appreciation for the diamond-in-the-rough nature of underground DIY cinema, I don’t even know why you’re reading this. Unless you’re curious, in which case, I warn you now, a truly open mind is handy for appreciating this brand of guerilla punk cinema. Once the stalking proper gets started, we are treated to an uncomfortable scene in which our friendly neighborhood sicko lures a woman with a fake vehicle breakdown. As the omniscient viewers, we know the friendly, harmless banter and request for help is a cover for nefarious motives. Wisely, Tetreault let us get to know this woman earlier, giving her a back story that earned viewer sympathy before she even found herself targeted by the bad guy. Another victim is the girl we previously saw engaged in semi-rough sex, taking a shower and taking off her clothes (yep, same girl). This means that with her sexually charged captivity we will have witnessed her in four classic grindhouse sex scenarios: consensual sex, shower scenes, strip club scenes and sexual hostage motifs. Nice across the board, Johann! And kudos on how you find ways to convey the violent hostility of your psychopathic main character besides just the inflicting of physical harm. One standout scene has him engaged in a nasty rant, with his two female captives bound to porch railings outside in the chill weather. The cruelty of the temperature situation along with the mean-spiritedness of Sicko’s rant make for a grimly effective scene. A dash of Tetreault’s signature AV techniques is the cherry on top. But just when the viewer is settling in for a stretch of sociopathic woman-hating behavior, a sincerely unexpected twist butts in via the entrance of another character who dramatically shifts the dynamic and balance of power among the film’s key participants. One second you’re wondering what bit of nastiness Sicko is gonna unleash on one of his women, the next you’re left simply wondering. Pretty great, really. When Tetreault makes this blinkerless left turn, he injects some suspenseful tension into the affair. It’s no longer a two-way dynamic, madman on one side, victims on the other. Now there is a third party of people – yes, people – up close and in the mix. The entrance of others into the psycho’s solitude is not without its foreshadowing, but what got no prior hinting or setup of expectation is the when and how, roughly speaking. On its own, the outside interference isn’t a complete surprise, but Tetreault finds a surprising way to fit it into the story arc. He alters the timing of said interference from convention so that the interference itself isn’t the shocker; it is the how this encounter enters into the story that makes it unusual and unexpected. Nice that something which in another film’s context would be something blatantly built up to is here brought in “prematurely” to jack up the viewers with a little WTF. Tetreault next tightens his grip with a riveting, appalling scene of abuse involving more than one bodily excretion. It’s shudder-inducing; and though packed with shock value, it doesn’t feel gratuitous. It’s a disgustingly important part of this character’s behavior, a necessary evil, so to speak, that stands as almost the symbolic epitome of Sicko’s hateful feelings toward women. Rape and violence seem anti-climactic. Speaking of violence, one thing I admire about Tetreault is his very plain but highly functional approach to getting around severe budgetary restraints when it comes to bloodshed FX. Basic visual effects applied to the picture during, say, a throat slicing, renders the action coherent while simultaneously dulling visual detail enough to hide the lack of Tom Savini. His methods not only provide interesting visuals that, with the score, provides mondo atmosphere, they also allow us to see the knife slide across the throat while NOT letting us see that the knife doesn’t actually slice. A phase back to normal allows us to see the bloody aftermath, more easily accomplished than depicting the actual cutting itself. I adore low-tech creativity and Tetreault has some charming tricks up his sleeve for conveying the story he wants to tell without letting monetary, and hence technological, shortcomings act as impediments. Even this rough cut – still anxiously awaiting the final version – shows off Tetreault’s cinematic style just fine. Mostly it’s the audio that is still raw, but I have it on good authority that such problems will be addressed in the finished product. When I have that version in my hands, I will do a write-up on it as well; the comparison should be interesting. Something else that’s interesting is blood-covered bondage girls, by which I mean the kidnapped honeys Sicko has tied up. Of course, I don’t have to tell you something like that is interesting; just letting you know it’s there. More motivation to buy this flick, which I encourage you to do. (And if you’re gonna buy this one, part two, you might as well go ahead and get the first HOMICIDAL MANIAC. And if you’re gonna buy both of those, you might as well go on and pick up THE DEMONIC SERIES, the best of the bunch IMHO, to finish up your Johann Tetreault collection.) Before all is said and done with HM2, tables get turned again, and we find ourselves coming up on the climax. Still wondering, at this late stage, just where the story is going next. Dunno about you, but I like a little suspense. Now, I’ll say this, you know for a fact when the bad guy ties a girl down on a table in a garage and changes into doctor’s scrubs and mask that something bad is about to happen. But what, exactly? Let’s find out. … OH, I don’t mean find out together. I’m about to find out right now. But you should find out too: JohannTetreault@gmail.com.
P.S. What happens next is gory. That’s all I’m gonna say. But I bet you wanna find out the rest, don’t you….?
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