Smash Cut on DVD

Monday, 31 August 2009 07:24

When you are tasked with reviewing a movie based on the output of a director you have never come across, you worry about your competence. Fortunately for me, the director in question is Herschell Gordon Lewis, who, judging from the tone of “Smash Cut” and typical Lewis film titles such as “The Wizard of Gore” and “The Gore Gore Girls” is a purveyor of pretty standard horror/exploitation fare.

“Smash Cut” concerns the murderous exploits of ridiculed, fictional movie director Able Whitman (David Hess). Whitman is desperate to be loved by his audience but his last movie bombed, and cinema-goers walked out, their faces streaked with tears of laughter at the terrible plots and abysmal special effects. Caught up in a fatal drink-driving accident soon afterwards, Whitman opts to hide the evidence by using the corpse of his female passenger as a stunt body in his next movie.

Smash Cut on DVDWhen the oblivious cast and crew are wowed by the amazing authenticity of the corpse, the director becomes convinced that he must gather up more real body parts and use human blood to win his audience back. Bizarrely, Whitman’s victims mainly comprise his own cast and crew, a bunch of typical horror movie morons who never see their sticky fates coming!

“Smash Cut” has its tongue permanently placed in its cheek, which is just as well given how difficult it would be to take the film seriously. It is often difficult to tell whether the cast are hamming it up intentionally, or simply terrible actors. ‘Adult actress’ Sasha Grey co-stars as Whitman’s newly-discovered leading lady, April Carson. Grey delivers the majority of her lines rather flatly compared with her cheesy colleagues, but at least she provides some steamy eye-candy.

Michael Berryman (the bald freak in the original “The Hills Have Eyes”) plays Philip Farmsworth Jr, a studio executive with an alarming black curly wig and a complexion like The Thing from “The Fantastic Four”. On the plus side, Hess (also no stranger to classic horror like the original “The Last House on the Left” and “Swamp Thing”) fares better as Whitman, confidently taking us on his journey from despair to insanity, but never forgetting that this is essentially a piece of harmless nonsense. Better still is Jesse Buck as super-confident private dick, Isaac Beaumonde, a character he plays so deliriously over the top that he is out of sight.

Sadly, much of the film’s horror and humour falls flat on its face, partly because of the very cheap, home-movie style direction and unconvincing production design. Director Lee Demarbre may have intentionally shaped it this way to tie in with the 1960s and early 1970s movies by Lewis, but this is 2009, and other directors have ably proven that low budgets do not necessarily inhibit the production of tight, exciting and funny horror films. The whole thing simply feels rushed, which, though ironic, is a shame given the potential of the concept and the combined experience of the cast.

Perhaps the venture might have worked better if it was redesigned as a feature-length TV special, as its look and feel bring to mind wacky shows like “The Mighty Boosh” and “The League of Gentlemen”. Outside the horror genre, other movies have told the loopy director story better. For example, “Bowfinger” is funnier, and “Cecil B DeMented” is more compelling and, yes, more demented.

Back to this movie, though, and it is not all bad news. Special mention ought to go to the soundtrack, which starts out resembling the pulsing bass of John Carpenter’s better films, and evolves into a catchy, jazzy theme that sounds very familiar but I cannot quite put my finger on it. Also of note is an entertaining scene where a snide film critic is literally cut down to size by a clapperboard!

In conclusion, “Smash Cut” tries hard to please gore hounds and fans of black comedy, but unfortunately it fails to deliver as often as it succeeds. Followers of Lewis (who has a minor role here), Hess or Berryman might want to give it go, though. There were no special features on the preview disc, but the closing credits are accompanied by some genuinely funny outtakes. “Smash Cut” (Certificate ‘18’) is out from Lionsgate now, priced £12.99, or less from www.culttvstore.com

Last modified on Thursday, 10 May 2012 16:37

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