Sunday, October 11, 2009

Day #8 There is something in my guts

For Day number eight I took in some low budget D.I.Y. horror goodness

D. Brian Hirschbine
Abortion Bin Productions
S.O.V. 16 X 9

Thank god there are creative people left working in the D.I.Y indie horror scene today. For a little while there it was beginning to look like it was all getting washed up in the tide of who could make the most "extreme" stuff to out do each other, regardless of things like plot, story or characters. Then along came people like Andrey Iskanov, and over here stateside Brian Hirschbine, to prove that low budget horror film making is still looking to break barriers that are more than just gore. These are young turks willing to push their very concepts to the limit, regardless of the tools at their disposal, reminding us that ideas are the most important thing.

TAPEWORM basically takes the image from VIDEODROME when James Woods gets the betamax tape jammed into his guts to reprogram him and runs with it. Take equal parts Cronenberg body horror, TETSUO mutation psychosis, and a huge dollop of Neo film Noir and stir it all around into a blood cocktail of pseudoscience laced with a bullet written with snuff and you have a close proximity of what this movie is aiming at. The movie follows a P.I. named Frankie who gets a call from a fellow P.I. in trouble. But when he finds her it's too late. She's just a nude corpse in the woods, gutted and filled with audio tape. Quite literally - the stuff is spilling out of her wounds along with her guts. He even finds a mini cassette jammed in her mouth. In his investigations, a Panda-faced mutant attacks him and shoots him up with some drug, which causes him (or perhaps the viewer?) some flashbacks of a nude killer (in a furry panda mask) raping and killing a woman. This continues throughout the movie and gets progressively more vile with each flashback, until she is literally a pile of guts on the floor. Soon, Frankie is mutating with cables exploding from his arms and circuit boards becoming exposed on his body. A hole opens on his abdomen, with all these wounds suppurating and spewing his old body's contents at every turn. He goes to his "company's" mechanic who knows what this is. It's a "recording virus" used to monitor people and record their thoughts, and whereabouts. The mechanic does a nasty surgery and removes the parts and miles of magnetic recording tape that has developed inside of Frankie. But soon a doppelganger of the other Female P.I. manages to infect him again and he's on the run as he discovers he's much more intimately linked to this whole situation that he ever imagined.

The movie is WAY more complex than even that quick paragraph makes it sound, with twists, turns, and lots of characters coming and going, turning out to be doubles or not who we think they are. The whole time the main character is mutating into a flesh/machine hybrid for some higher purpose dealing with audio and video tapes that seem to have replaced actual human interactions for some secret cabal of people. As he mutates he still stumbles around on the job until the final reveal brings it all into focus in a fairly disturbing way.

I was digging the whole Raymond Chandler meets Cronenberg thing in TAPEWORM a lot, but I wasn't digging the snuff film like flashbacks with the guy mutilating and raping the girl. I just felt like that was an angle every other underground horror films has done to death. But then the climax of this movie comes full circle and makes it all make sense, turning the premise into something different. Or a different take on the idea I should say, presenting something fresh and really thoughtful on those ideas that made it all work well. I was duly impressed and suddenly understood how the movie couldn't have worked without those scenes. This is one of the most ambitious D.I.Y. movies I have seen. In plot, structure, and in effects, as well. Many of the effects obviously could have used more money to pull off, but they are still startling and impressive in design. There is a richness of imagination here from script to screen that is rare in this day and age.

My only complaints with the movie are the pacing. I realize that in going with the noir thing, that a certain methodical pace is required. But the movie sits at close to two hours and there is a lot of excess around the edges of scenes. Just extra shots, or shots that run too long, making it feel like it drags in places, when it should be moving along. And, damn, what is with all those cigarettes? Everyone smoking all the time was literally making me sick! I know it is a noir thing, though.

One more thing: J.C. Howe isn't in it enough. She was so terrific in BLACK ICE that I was sad that her part was so small here. Hopefully the next one she'll be on screen more.

Thank god for movies like this that show the indie underground to be alive and kicking ass. I've only seen two movies from Hirschbine and company and they both were quite good. This one was a huge step up from the already good BLACK ICE. So I look very forward to what they do next!

I couldn't find a trailer for TAPEWORM so here is the trailer for Hirschbine's previous movie BLACK ICE.

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