DIRECTOR, WRITER, EDITOR: Johann Tetreault
CAST: Alexandra Cruz, Melissa Eichorn, Nelli Kowalik
A lunatic falls off the serial killing wagon and goes back to his body-counting ways when his lady, who is all that’s keeping him sane, cheats on him. Meanwhile, his boss is nearly as nuts as he is!
HOMICIDAL MANIAC stretches the boundaries of what it means to be an auteur. By the purest sense of the word, director (and editor and writer) Johann Tetrault must be declared one. To be, shall we say, frank, this is the kind of movie that causes many to point and use the term “bad movie.” It is also the kind of movie that has summoned up mighty cult followings that outlive the decades and often the director. Herschell Gordon Lewis, anyone? Credit goes to the very same characteristics which earned its “bad movie” brand from mainstream perspectives. Also, having mentioned Lewis, I should be quick to point out that, similarities aside, HOMICIDAL MANIAC is a vastly different movie than, say, Blood Feast. Tetreault’s DIY crudity of horror – just in case you’re not hip to it, that’s not an insult – gets its sick kicks not from gratuitous mutilation but from psychological abuse of its characters and viewers alike, and heaping helpings of misogyny, on the part of the characters, not the filmmakers, of course. Much of the physical abuse that does occur involves largely rape and humiliation. The murders are unspectacular, not in the sense that they’re bad but that they eschew the ostentatious, spraying, maiming murder of a Fulci or Argento. The low key nature of the murders, plus the shot-on-video technique’s removal of the fantasy veil between viewer and art inherently supplied by celluloid, both lend an unglamorous grit of realism to a not always realistic genre. In this case, that it’s a dude with a shitty job and a pervy boss not much better than him, rather than Jason Fucking Voorhees (we love you, Jason!!!), makes it down to earth. (That relationship with the boss is one of the more original elements in this psycho killer story. HOMICIDAL MANIAC, in fact, is fairly original overall in terms of the story-vehicle for the archetype material.) The micro-budget flavor and the previously mentioned SOV look – with occasional simulated scratchy celluloid – give it more here and now than a glossier affair. I’m also notoriously forgiving of these sordid little cinematic affairs because I get a blast of the joy of art seeing how artists with limited means accomplish the telling of their story. In some ways, there is more creativity in this shoestring budget movie than in a gazillion dollar Hollywood piece with all the technology in the world at its fingertips. (And, unlike far too many ponderous big dollar flicks, as well as elistist indies, HOMICIDAL MANIAC refuses to take itself too seriously. It may be a movie about murder, but it’s also a joyous exercise in artistic expression.) Undergrounders like Tetreault must make movies with PERSONALITY, and personality HOMICIDAL MANIAC has, in spades. The movie is rather slow to get going and feels on uncertain footing for the first half hour or so, but the remaining 45 minutes gains some momentum and Johann injects the film with style and a dash of mood. The ultra low tech violence with its relatively minimal amount of blood, particularly for this genre, makes for a more blunt approach that is not only possessed of a degree of realism proportionate to the amount of sheen a film DOESN’T have, but which is also more brutal and mean, in its way, than a grue-soaked, dismembering holocaust of pain would be. Besides, we’ve seen that before. Plenty. And will again, doubtless. Besides, the pacing arc so generated, and the understated murders, conspire to create a slow-burn horror film out of all this, a movie that keeps it quiet for much of its running time, thus setting you up for the more intense multiple girls-in-a-shed climax. The sheer irrepressible verve and creative enthusiasm on display here, the infectious FUCK IT LET’S MAKE A MOVIE! Aesthetic, the undeniable punk rock philosophy – these are all things that argue in favor of the movie’s merits. And I won’t say that these are counterbalances to the film’s shortcomings or some such, or that these qualities “make up” for what’s wrong elsewhere. The raw nature of the film is a seriously big chunk of its appeal. This is counter-culture cinema. It lacks polish. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.
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