Father’s Day Midnight Movie Review
By Bret Dorman
Last week I looked at Bulletproof with Gary Busey to try and decide what makes a bad movie bad or a bad movie good? This week’s movie is no different. A lot of people will be thinking they are laughing AT the movie when in fact it seems clear the movie is in on the jokes.
My first real taste of Grindhouse-type movies was probably Grindhouse itself. Being a huge fan of Tarantino and Rodriguez I waited three hours in line at some promo giveaway to get sneak preview tickets so I could see it Wednesday instead of Friday. I didn’t know what Grindhouse was per se but I knew what bad movies were and I knew that Grindhouse was a lot of fun. Growing up with a typical boy’s taste in movies I loved action, gore, and movies that moved at a quick pace. So once I started taking movies more seriously I found myself still defending these movies using the same lingo people were using to defend artsy movies.
Thanks to Blockbuster Online (used to work at the video store, so still loyal till the very end) and Netflix (in particular Instant Streaming), I now can watch exploitation films more readily. And at Music Box Theatre’s very own Massacre (24 hours straight of horror movies) I could see a couple with people who loved them just as much as me.
What makes these movies so good, in a ‘good’ good way, is that they are NOT filtered through any desire to please mass audiences. They don’t dumb down the gore. They try to make sense. They don’t play it safe. Isn’t this the same stuff we are complaining about for most Hollywood Blockbusters? Well, maybe not the gore, but most people agree that most the big budget tent pole movies are a silly mess. Which is ridiculous seeing as how much time, money, effort, money, test audiences, money, reshoots, and money goes into them. But movies like Father’s Day seems to be what happens when you give 5 friends a bit of money and completely free reign.
The Story: Twink (Conor Sweeny) witnesses the murder of his father and is supposed to go under the care of Father John Sullivan (Matthew Kennedy), who tracks down Ahab (Adam Brooks) who tracks down his sister Chelsea (Amy Groening) who all team up in some way or another to track down and kill Fuchman, the psycho mass father murderer. Also, there are tons of dick shots with very gross/brutal things happening to them! Yay?
Father’s Day is as if a group of friends got together and came up with a silly idea then wrote a screenplay as a joke and then put in legit comedy bits in it to make it not just stupid silly but a real comedy. I would put some of the gags in this movie up against any other straight up comedy coming out in theaters this year. Some of it is irreverent, some of it is spoof-y, and some of it is ‘public access/Tim and Eric’ “bad,” but it always works. Because it is a comedy they can get away with a lot more, like keeping the pace fast and not sacrificing building real character motivations/development or fake sympathies or logic. When you don’t expect your audience to take your movie seriously it gives you the freedom to play more, creating interest not through conventional means but through a genuine excitement of “how far are they willing to go?”
When it comes to comedy they are willing to take Ron Burgundy-esque one liners and mix them with Wet Hot American Summer-esque micro skits and throw in some The Room-esque ‘formulaic’ plot twists and turns that make little to no sense but never throw you off or are truly confusing. Yet when it comes to gore this movie crosses the threshold many consider funny, gross, or morally corrupt. Most movies like this are meant to be cheered at and praised for their violence and the technical skill that goes behind them. Father’s Day stands out by truly being a gross, disturbing look at Fuchman’s chaos. Even though he doesn’t wear a mask, have any deformities, or is from another world he still feels monstrous and alien-like. Most audiences watching Texas Chainsaw Massacre now might not feel as disturbed as people back then watching it for the first time but that was pushing the limits most people could handle. This is no different. There is a common level of desensitization to gore and violence, even if the most tame make people squirm, that this movie had no choice but to take its villain and his actions to the utmost of extremes.
But is a silly spoof-y gorror (not quite horror due to its gory over-the-top shock value tone) really worthy of so much praise? Could it be… a good film? Yeah. The use of color in this movie is beautiful. The over-exposure works wonderfully and the composition shows the directors (Astron-6, the group of five friends) have a keen eye for visual story telling. Instead of trying to make their low budget movie made for a specific audience as generic as possible they got creative. I’m sure working under their conditions helped in a positive way. From unique angles to green screen visuals. Make fun of the chroma-key all you want but back in the stop motion days it looked just as silly and people have such fond memories of them. Because it uses these special effects rarely, mostly in the final 20 minutes or so, it helps us not get too tired of it, unlike let’s say a Star Raiders feature length movie? (Although I would still watch and most likely enjoy that as well.)
Some of the actors are better at being too dramatic or ‘silly-serious’ than others. The star character and actor though is Ahab, played by Adam Brooks. He is as if you combined one of Kurt Russell’s most badass characters, Snake Plissken (Escape From NY/LA), with one of his most confident despite any real proof to back it up characters, Jack Burton (Big Trouble in Little China; all three movies directed by John Carpenter). Towards the end there is even a bit of fun in a scary place that Sam Raimi would enjoy and a character becoming a creature that Peter Jackson could admire.
Despite the fact there are a TON of references, homages, and vibes coming from a bunch of cool directors this movie is still uniquely made and created by Astron-6 with the blessing of Troma. Its not a bunch of rip-offs or stale jokes. Father’s Day feels like a passion project from a bunch of film lovers who have never had anyone tell them “No, you CAN’T do that.”
Why You Must See It At Midnight: This next sentence is going to make a lot of people angry, upset or confused. I feel like Father’s Day is in the same kind of category as 2001: A Space Odyssey. Yes, they are two different types of film and still belong in two types of VERY different categories, but let me explain. I would not watch 2001: A Space Odyssey on my own just for fun. I would watch it solo in my room to study it and learn from it. And as much fun as Father’s Day is, I couldn’t imagine myself putting it into the regular rotation.
What I will do is go see it this Friday/Saturday at Music Box, because with both movies the more people and the bigger the screen, the better. From the sound of laughter to that pre-vomit gag, Father’s Day is THE exploitation film of 2011 complete with outlandish plot, cool characters, gorror, and nudity. The ONLY thing missing is a moral compass to point the film in the direction of good taste and common civility.