Saturday, January 15, 2011

Not as GRIM as it looks...

GRIM (2010)
D. Adrian Santiago

This extremely low budget shot on video action flick has a lot going for it. The story has a nice bit of social satire, the violence is splashy and nasty and even the acting is above average for a movie of this type. The movie is way rough around the edges of course but any movie that proudly boasts during the end credits that it was shot for $2500 is going to be.  For a movie I went into completely blind, I was pleasantly surprised by GRIM, and even more so because of the embarrassing hard sell that TROMA is using on the dvd packaging and promotional marterials that tried to make it look like some ultra-gory, alternative/underground gore piece, which it isn’t. I was pleased to get instead a fun action movie with a bit of social satire. 

The movie opens like a million other revenge tinged action films. With a multiple murder by a group of extremly unpleasant villians. These guys drive a man, woman and twelve year old boy out in the middle of nowhere. To which they proceed to beat the man to a pulp with a pipe and wrench infront of his family and execute him. The mother folows suit but they inexplicably leave the boy, though they do konk him on the head. Figuring his extreme terror will leave him mum about the proceedings. He is found by a kind man who spends the next nine years raising him. During that time he teaches him to use weapons as well. 

Years later we find out this man used to be the Sheriff of the town and that he was forced to kill his own son when he joined the gang of the men who killed our hero’s family.  This is where we get some important background information that sets the movie apart. Turns out the movie is taking place slightly in the future where an economic collapse has occurred due to continued bail outs to Wall Street and corporations by the government. Seems the people marched on Washington and many were killed in the ensuing riots. So much of the United States broke off into Tea Party styled militia groups who simply took over and emancipated themselves. But naturally this lead to dictatorships, chaos and social discord. The story we are watching takes place in Texas where one such faction has taken over. Our hero Nicholas Grim  will now set forth into their clutches to find those who killed his family.

Along the way he will meet up with a shanty town ghetto of Mexican immigrants who will befriend him, as well a lot of bloodshed.  There will be barnyard bare-chested fights, brothels, pick up trucks full of dead bodies, strangling, finger nails pulled out, bloody shootings that look more like SHOGUN ASSASSION style blood spray and lots of speeches about ones place in the role of society. 

All in all GRIM is surprisingly ambitious, with a lot more on its mind that the last dozen Steven Seagal movies rolled into one. Sure the dialogue falls into preaching and speechafying more often than not, but that is to be forgiven just because at least the characters are talking ABOUT something, instead of just posing.  There are even a few fight/action scenes that are well handled, especially that barn barefist fight scene.

Where GRIM fall on its face is the technical side. Apparently director Adrian Santiago has taken a page from the Robert Rodriguiz playbook and done literally everything himself. Literally directing, writing, editing, and shooting the project. The problem is that the cinematography ranges from acceptible to downright terrible depending on the scene. The scene where the whole back story of the USA collapse has the worse camera work I have seen in a legitimately released movie possibly ever. There is no reason that couldn’t have been reshot as it is horrible and distracting. The editing is also not up to par. It is never terrible, but when it gets to where thigns need to be exciting, the editing is simply not keeping up the pace. So perhaps on the next project Santiago will be able to afford some collaborators in those departments. 

The DVD is typical TROMA with a completely useless intro by Lloyd Kauffman (does ANYONE even watch those anymore?) and a raft of Troma extras that have jack and shit to do with the movie including an embarrassing clip of Lloyd watching some home video footage of one of his (now former) employees at Cannes pissing in another employees luggage while they discuss it endlessly.  Yawn. And a rather cute “Tromette” talking about Chaucer and showing her boobs. Yawn again. Santiago has a commentary but I didn’t listen to it yet. Perhaps I will. 

I will say TROMA did a nice job with the painted cover art on this package. It reminds me of the work of Steven Romano and his book SHOCK FESTIVAL which I am sure was intentional. But I seriously could do without the tag line “The Most Fucked Up Film of the year” on the back. It isn’t even close and really is only selling this to the “hardcore” crowd and fifteen year olds. 

But I say check it out if you get the chance, rude, crude and rough around the edges, there is still a good deal to like about this GRIM outing. 

Review © Andrew Copp


  1. Good review Andy. The last two recent releases I've viewed by Troma have featured some great looking cover art work AND some mighty unnecessary extras. That said, it does seem like they have been making an effort to get some slightly unique new indies to their roster. A lot of it is still hit and miss quality wise, but the effort is appreciated.

  2. Hey! Thanks for reviewing my film... something stood out to me: You compared the cover art to Stephen Romano's "Shock Festival" - This is actually kind of funny, as I am "illustrated" on two pages of the book, and our short "Tentacles in a Twisted Deathdream" was featured on the DVD release. In fact, the main guy in that short film is Christopher Dimock... star of the film "Grim" :)

    Just thought you'd be a fan of the connection... heh. Thanks again for the review! I enjoyed reading it.


  3. That movie was crap. The only reason you will call it the most fucked up movie, is because you had to pay to get it. The acting is terrible, it looks like something I filmed in a school field with friends when I was 14. There is very little special effects and the blood/gore (what little there is) is so pathetic and fake looking. PASS

  4. Did you read the review, or just look at the cover or artwork? I did not call it the "most fucked up movie" In fact I made a point about how Troma's marketing calling it that is a bit of a misnomer and does the movie no favors. I also tend to base my review on more than if a movie has good or bad special effects and blood and gore. Though I will agree on the cinematography is probably as good as you say.

  5. Adrian, (Up there a couple of comments) Thanks for reading the review and chiming in. Blogger is so weird about posting comments. Wish I could have seen this earlier and responded more quickly. That is cool that there is a connection to the SHOCK FESTIVAL Project, it is very fitting, and I liked that short on the SF dvd quite a bit.

    I appreciated that GRIM was a movie ABOUT ideas, something becoming more and more a rarity in the no budget arena. So I look forward to your next work. As a filmmaker myself I know what it is like to take on a huge workload on set, so keep at it!