Sunday, June 16, 2013



review by AARON ALLEN

Directed by Astron 6 
(Adam Brooks, Jeremy Gillespie, Matthew Kennedy, and Conor Sweeney)

In 2011, when I returned from the Toronto After Dark Film Festival's world premiere screening of Astron-6's FATHER'S DAY, I was picking my face off the floor for days.

In my original review posted on my Monster Chiller Horror Theatre blog, I said," If Father's Day doesn't explode in popularity among fans of weird trash cinema, then there is no justice in this world."

Well, given the overwhelming fan-love that followed for Father's Day, we can all breathe easy.

Like a secret society of demented magicians, the Canadian film-making collective known as Astron-6 pulled off an amazing slight of hand with their horror/exploitation/comedy masterpiece Father's Day. Everything about Father's Day would lead you to believe it's a slightly tongue-in-cheek homage to grindhouse exploitation ala Hobo with a Shotgun. But this is only a misdirection. In reality, Father's Day is an epic farce of sheer lunacy and unbridled special FX mania in the true independent spirit and envelope-pushing tradition of Troma (which helped finance and release the film). Father's Day is like nothing I'd ever seen before or since. If I had to come up with a simple analogy, I'd say that Father's Day is like Hobo with a Shotgun meets The Toxic Avenger meets Macgruber meets Lucio Fulci's The Beyond meets Hausu meets Talladega Nights meets Evil Dead 2 meets GWAR meets Showgirls meets Deathproof meets an acid trip through a meat grinder.

To truly summarize the plot of Father's Day is impossible without spoiling the film's deliriously delightful twists and shifts, which I would never do. This summary, however, sets up the basic deranged premise: a cannibalistic rapist who sexually assaults only fathers is pursued by Ahab (Adam Brooks), an eye-patch-wearing vigilante whose life and family were shattered when "The Father's Day Killer" raped and murdered his Dad. Helping him seek vengeance are his stripper sister (Amy Groening), a priest (Matthew Kennedy), and a teenage male prostitute named Twink (Conor Sweeney). I've only described the basic frame of this film -- it goes to places I never would have expected, and I was laughing, cheering, and gagging all the way.

Father's Day is, at its core, a farce. Unlike Hobo with a Shotgun, which presented outlandish scenarios with a core of implied seriousness, Father`s Day is intentionally and intensively ridiculous. It`s a comedy through and through that exploits the grindhouse action genre and blows up all its cheesiest and most stereotypical conventions with the cinematic equivalent of C4. With every act break, the movie becomes stranger. The script, as you might imagine, is a wicked beast that`s hard to pin down, but the dialogue is infinitely quotable, quirky, and sharply aware of its own silliness. To explore any further the depths of Father`s Day's rollicking humor will spoil the movie. The less you know about the plot, the better. Just remember: never call a man a tree.

Here's something I can tell you: Father's Day is wall-to-wall boobs, butts, and cocks! There's so much male and female full-frontal nudity in Father's Day that it might make Caligula blink. Some of this nudity is of a graphically violent nature (men beware: penis mutilation ahead) but for the rest of the time the camera lingers leeringly on female strippers. Father's Day more than fills its shameless and tawdry T and A quota.

While Father's Day may be closer to spoof than grind-house, it doesn't skimp on the shock value. I don't need to tell you that rape is never a good thing, but it's also (sadly) true that we've grown desensitized to the representation of female sexual abuse in film. Father's Day turns this desensitization on its head by shoving our faces into scenes of male-on-male rape. You will never forget the horror of seeing fathers -- middle-aged, balding men in glasses and windbreakers -- being savagely ass raped by a cannibalistic lunatic. The gore is excessive and daring, and the scenes of sexual assault are brutally comical, if that doesn't sound to sick to admit. You will see things in Father's Day that not even you own sweet Pa could have prepared you for. Truly a marvel of low-budget special effects.

The stunts are also unbelievably dangerous. None of these actors are stunt people from what I can tell, but they do things on an almost Jackass level of full-throttle, gung-ho stupidity. Midway through the film during a car chase, characters leap from truck to truck and hang from windows -- but Father's Day didn't have the budget for stunt doubles and CGI effects. What you see the actors doing in full frame is more raw and real than any Michael Bay action blockbuster. And it's scary as hell; I am amazed no one died shooting these scenes or got seriously hurt.  

Hand-in-hand with its silliness, Father's Day is also a surreal trip into a world designed to look and feel like a grainy, reel-to-reel grind house epic while at the same time speeding through a minefield of acid-nightmares and filmtasmagorical stop motion inspired, no doubt, by the works of Sam Raimi. In surreal style and editing, Father's Day manages to embody the paradox of being incredibly derivative while completely and scarily unique.

At the risk of making grand comparisons, Father's Day is to the modern genre film community what Pulp Fiction was to the indie film community of the 90s. While mainstream critics lifted Pulp Fiction to classic status, I don't think the mainstream will cotton to Father's Day. It's too absurd. It's too violent. It's too enamored with the era of fuzzy VHS bootlegs and direct-to-video 80s cheese. But from the conversations I heard in the crowd as we left the Father's Day's World Premiere in addition to the endearing love Father's Day continues to collect now that it's on video, Father's Day has become the new jewel in Troma's Crown -- giving this generation what The Toxic Avenger gave its: sex, laughs, action, and gore.

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