New Releases for Tuesday, April 23, 2019
High on the Hog
Made Me Do It
Directed by: Tony Walsh, Benjamin Ironside Koppin
Run time: 85 minutes, 90 minutes
The Lowdown: If this is what the future of cult cinema looks like, it might be time for me to cross my name off the list.
Two new releases, both from Indican Pictures, High on the Hog and Made Me Do It, shine a light on what appears to be a disturbing new trend in B-movies.
I call it ADHD Genre cinema, but what it more closely resembles is the Pokémon seizure episode that was eventually banned from television in the late 1990’s.
Actually, the genesis of this new trend may fall closer to the technology-obsessed reality that has gripped our world and which shows no signs of abating.
Both High on the Hog and Made Me Do It are guilty of it. Sadly, both also appear to be interesting, solidly-produced films that would have likely generated buzz – if they were watchable.
High on the Hog is the latest starring vehicle for Sid Haig where Haig basically plays a variation of Captain Spaulding from House of 1,000 Corpses/The Devil’s Rejects. In High…, Haig plays Big Daddy, a marijuana farmer in a rural locale populated by the same white-trash denizens that show up on camera every time Rob Zombie makes a movie.
High on the Hog kicks off with an old-school title card and a decent voiceover by Haig, followed immediately by a woman showing off her bare boobs. Big Daddy is apparently cultivating a new strain of weed that both makes people stupid horny and drives them into a crazed violent fit. No complaints here so far.
But that’s also about the point that director Tony Walsh begins utilizing every known editing trick and grindhouse trope – you know, dissolves, jump edits, flashbacks, missing panels, cigarette burns and more – in every scene, often layered on top of one another, to the point that your eyes can’t focus on anything in the frame.
And it never stops. It’s as if Walsh watched Natural Born Killers and collected every scene where Oliver Stone used subtle tricks to disorient viewers and sow discord, and then strung them together into one long conveyor belt of frenetic imagery that is both headache-inducing and virtually impossible to watch.
Take this quiet moment from High on the Hog. Big Daddy orders one of his female subjugates to go roll him a thick blunt. Then he demands she perform fellatio. Instead of just watching Haig get a simulated blowjob, which is awkward and unnecessary in and of itself, Walsh intersperses the scene with images of a woman greedily eating a banana.
After 16 minutes, I was already over the overused tricks.
And that was before Walsh introduced more techniques – speeding up some footage, slowing down key moments to a crawl, digitally converting other scenes into photo snapshots and then going infrared.
Every second of High on the Hog is polluted by such gimmickry.
At 26 minutes, with a raging headache and an unsettling feeling of nausea in my gut, I finally pulled the plug.
That’s about the time that I turned to Made Me Do It, a new serial killer thriller by director Benjamin Ironside Koppin.
Imagine my surprise when I found that this film too was using many of the same editing and camera tricks instead of, you know, just telling an actual story within the construct of a conventional movie.
Seriously, what the fuck.
Honestly, I almost get the need for such disruptive devices to be part of the visual fabric with Made Me Do It, as the film seems intent on transporting viewers into the mind of a burgeoning teen killer, but still, at some point, you either have to believe strong enough in your story to present it as a cohesive narrative, or you might as well be making a sequel to Pearl Jam’s music video for “Jeremy.”
I sincerely hope that it’s just a fluke that two wholly disparate endeavors stumbled upon the same techniques, and this isn’t an early portent of how such low-budget features plan on attracting younger fans to the horror and cult classic fold.
Because, as evidenced by High on the Hog and Made Me Do It, such gimmicks don’t work, and only serve to alienate the kind of core viewers required to transform a little-known movie into a bona fide word-of-mouth hit.
The Stuff You Care About: Hot chicks – Sure.
Nudity – Yes. Gore – Some.
Drug use – Yes.
Bad Guys/Killers – My enjoyment of both films was killed by the directorial/creative decisions used to shape both features.
Buy/Rent – Neither.
Living Dark: The Story of Ted the Caver (Monarch Home Entertainment, PG-13, 112 minutes, Video-on-Demand): Originally filmed in 2013 as a long-form take on a Creepy Pasta-esque Internet legend, Living Dark is surprisingly effective and wholly captivating.
The film centers on two brothers, Ted (Chris Cleveland) and Brad (Matthew Alan), who reunite for their father’s funeral after an acrimonious split over a woman.
While paying tribute to their dad, they unexpectedly stumble across a cave opening they never knew existed and, being longtime spelunkers, they decide to explore. They find a sprawling underground network of channels that their father clearly had spent time in, culminating with an opening in a wall that they become obsessed with getting past.
Long story short, if you fall into a cavernous opening and you find something that basically resembles the hellhole featured in The Descent, do not – I repeat, do not – keep going.
Living Dark is taunt, tense and packed with unsettling moments.
This one comes highly recommended.
Tito and the Birds
Now on Video-on-Demand:
Hagazussa (Doppelgänger Releasing/Bloody Disgusting Presents, 102 minutes, Unrated, Video-on-Demand): The latest horror film to be co-financed by the popular horror website Bloody Disgusting is basically an exercise in patience wrapped in moody atmosphere that will test the resolve of anyone expecting an actual horror movie.
A lot of people have comparedHagazussa to Robert Eggers’ 2015 masterpiece The Witch, but while both films are solemnly shot and long on doom and gloom, The Witch is far superior in both substance and actual shock.
Sadly, Hagazussa just builds and builds to a cathartic climax that never comes.