Be warned – the contents of this article may cause serious offence and extreme nausea! ………. Now THAT grabbed your attention didn’t it?!
Every once in a very long while in my movie-watching life something comes along that leaves me almost speechless in regard to what I may have just witnessed on screen. I’m not talking about being dumbstruck by the effects, the plot, the excitement etc. that makes Sci-Fi, fantasy and horror at times the truly exhilarating experience that it can be (that’s right Texas Chainsaw Massacre, I mean you). No, I’m referring to that once in a blue moon experience when ones mouth drops open in astonishment during the first few scenes of the film and doesn’t close until the final credits. I’m talking about that occasion when you are not quite sure about just what the hell it is what you have watched and you don’t know whether to love it, hate it – or both.
This happened to me the first time that I saw the John Waters cult classic Pink Flamingos in which the truly staggering Divine appeared and in one 'memorable' scene ate, well, dog poo. Yes that's right, dog poo. If you have never seen any of the early Waters work, especially the ‘Trash Trilogy’ of which Pink Flamingos was the first, then you really should give them a go. I know a few people that love them and even more who hate them – and often for the very same reasons. The films are offensive, shocking and full of hyperbolic machine-gun dialogue delivered by characters with often hilarious alliterated names (my particular favourite being ‘Fat Fuck Frank’). The plots are often gross exaggerations of the human condition (and perversions) and are about as far away from the mainstream candy floss movies of the time as one could get. I loved them, - warts, dog poo and all. Waters is a genius and it’s as simple as that.
In a small aside, I met the legend himself, Divine, in of all places Bradford, Yorkshire in 1984 during his tour of clubs on the back of his late success as an unlikely pop star in the 1980's. He was walking down a quiet street in Northern England looking for a good place to eat when I rudely stopped him to tell him how much I loved his film performances. A kind and gracious man you could ever hope to meet.
|He's got his dad's eye, er yes.....|
This week that feeling of ‘what the hell???!!!’ happened to me again. I was contacted by Kurt Walsh who proceeded with the tried and tested successful method of praising my blog articles. Flattery and praise heaped in my general direction never fails to inflate my ego. Kurt went on to say just how much he enjoyed my review of Liam Regan’s wonderful dark comic horror, Banjo (2015). If you haven’t read the review and have a couple of moments to spare then you can read my words of wonder RIGHT HERE.
Kurt was the composer of that particular movie and wondered, seeing as I was a self-confessed lover of all things John Waters, whether I would like to see his Waters-inspired piece of filth. After making sure that it was in fact a movie that Kurt was talking about and not some online social networking chat up line I agreed to his request. So later that evening accessed his super-secret online screener to watch his film, Life is cheap.
Oh. My. God. It’s now been three days after watching this film with a runtime of just 53 minutes I’m still thinking about it……. And so is my stomach.
"Life is cheap" is the story of the Cleftico Family, Joeby works as a toilet cleaner but his dream job comes to an end when his boss discovers his coprophillic tendencies, unemployed and under suspicion of his bosses disappearance he must face the wrath of his fly spray snorting, brothel Madame mother, their incest born "daughter" Bubbles and to make matters even stickier his mothers chainsaw wielding ex prison girlfriend has just broken out of jail..."
So I’m assuming that right at this very moment, many of you are now looking up in a dictionary the meaning of ‘coprophillic’, just to make sure that it is what you think it may be…………. I’ll give you a moment. Yes, that is correct. Coprophilia is indeed gaining sexual gratification with the smell, feel and taste of faeces - that’s poo to the likes of you and me. I’ll let your imagination do the rest…….while I just take a moment to think of something else, like meadows full of pretty perfumed flowers, or something, in fact anything not coprophilia related..........
It's crystal clear that writer/director Kurt wears his John Waters influence well an truly on his sleeve in addition to a healthy dollop of Troma induced narrative, which shouldn't really come as surprise as he has also worked as a composer /actor on pictures such as Troma's "Return to Nuke Em High". Don't get me wrong, because I don't mean that as a criticism at all, on the contrary it's good to see that there are some filmmakers out there still wishing to push those boundaries of good taste well beyond what is often regarded as acceptable in mainstream filmmaking.
Life is cheap will no doubt alienate a large proportion of filmgoers who will find not only the subject matter, but the treatment of the subject matter, grossly offensive. However I doubt Kurt and his team will care too much about that, in fact I believe they'll rejoice in the reactions that the film will induce in its audience. Kurt himself told me for instance that they had their first underground screening at islington mill in manchester last weekend and it not only got a good turn out in terms of audience numbers but also in regard to the audience reaction plenty of laughs and 'ewws.'
" I was totally overwhelmed with the audience reaction, I had expected / hoped for a few laughs and yukks but it was pretty continuous throughout. My two fav moments being the massive wince at the nail pulling and someone shouting "Oh stop it" during the eyeball scooping. I'm sure a couple of the sick bags got used, in hindsight I should have put a return address on them, would save us a bit of money on fake puke for the next movie" ........ These are the words of a man who clearly revels in the extreme reactions he's been getting to his film - I like his style!
The film is incredible, in a grossly offensive shield-your-eyes-at-the-stomach churning-gross out bits sort of way - seriously, this is not for the feint hearted. What contributes to this effect is the fact that the team shot the whole thing on a hi8 movie camera, the result is that it avoids the contemporary clean-cut visual effect and instead achieves the opposite desired effect and makes everything look as grubby and worn as possible. In other words, it gives the viewer a voyeuristic feeling in that you're peaking in on something you're not really supposed to be watching.
Praise too has to be given to Ben (Bastard) Christopher in the lead role of Joeby Cleftico, whose fevereishly hyperactive performance as the perverted corprofilliac is truly something to behold. Kurt says that the majority of the cast in the UK was made up of musicians he knows, most notably Ben & Jon from the notorious leeds techno punk outfit Petrol Bastard. Ben's energy and disregard for his own personal safety during gigs really captured Kurt's imagination and he knew that he would make a great lead for a movie of this kind, essentially something of a cross between the aforementioned Divine and Adrian Edmundson - And do you know something, he's not wrong. Ben's performance is unsettling, exhilarating and disgusting in equal measures. I'm a fan.
Location wise, Life is cheap was split between Blackpool, Manchester and Huddersfield, wherever we could find that had 'good grimy' locations and that the actors could get to. They even had a segment shot in the basement of the Troma building by talented young director / actress Dylan Greenberg and starring cast members from Return to Nuke Em High.
Whether films such as this will ever get an audience beyond the cult following that it will no doubt gather is open to question. What is more certain is that more people will hate it than love it, however that for me is missing the point. The important thing that the spirit of Waters, Kaufman et al is alive and well in hands maniacs like Kurt and his group - and they should be applauded for pushing the envelope of bad taste into filmmaking once again. If nothing else, the sale of sick-bags will see a healthy rise.
To find out more about this cinematic force of nausia inducing nature then check out the Facebook page for Life is cheap at https://www.facebook.com/lifeischeapmovie/?fref=ts
You can read this article and much more on the 5D website at www.5d-blog.com