Hectic Knife (2016)

HK PosterSome films throw logic and reason right out the window and subscribe only to the bizarre new reality they have created. Films like that can be difficult to critique because the acting, continuity, special effects and even the plot itself are so askew that you can’t judge it’s success or failure by any standard measurement. As someone who loves unconventional, surreal cinema, I’ve seen a lot of films in this category and have found that they inevitably fall to one side of the quality spectrum or the other. Either a film succeeds wildly as an innovative, daring work of creative brilliance or it quickly becomes clear that the filmmaker has simply slapped together a bunch of nonsensical images without any meaning or intention. So, where does the utterly surreal insanity that is Hectic Knife fall on that scale? Well, let’s discuss.

The plot, such as it is, follows Hectic Knife (Peter Litvin), a knife wielding vigilante in a long blonde wig who has become completely frustrated and disenchanted with his brutal and relentless life of crime fighting. Things get even worse for Hectic when one of his only friends is murdered by the sinister Piggly Doctor (J.J. Brine), a super villain who seeks to dominate the world itself. But first he will need to get through a blonde maniac with a pair of knives in his belt and a score to settle.HK 1

Even though the summary sounds (mostly) like your standard anti-hero action flick it doesn’t even begin to describe the surreal madness that permeates every frame of this movie, and that’s what makes Hectic Knife work so incredibly well. Director Greg DeLiso commits so fully to the unhinged lunacy of the world he’s created, that the movie isn’t simply weird, it’s authentically surreal, nearly reaching Japanese Splatter Cinema levels of gleeful insanity. There are just so many little touches that keep the viewer unbalanced but utterly engrossed and curious to see what unpredictable direction the film will veer off into next.

HK 3From the small things like the living room couch that’s inexplicably vertical, the deliberately strange and repetitive dialogue, a character stopping in the middle of a fight to do a stand-up comedy routine complete with a laugh track, this entire experience feels like a stream of consciousness dream that only kinda obeys the laws of reality. One of my favorite scenes is when this black and white movie pulls out to reveal a random couple in full color watching and disparaging it. They in turn have their own scene that is just as intensely bizarre and violent as the rest of the film, but otherwise serves no purpose but to add yet another level of insanity to the experience.

In a film full of strange and surprising scenes, by far the most surprising of all, is how effectively funny it is, and I don’t mean in an unintentional The Room kind of way, either. Hectic Knife knows exactly what it’s doing and it’s fucking hilarious! This is not something I say lightly, as I am rarely amused by the antics in most films that are attempting to be funny, but the humor in this was so goddamn absurd and unpredictable that it had me laughing out loud the entire way through.Hk02

Of course, this film is what it is, and while the ride is an incredibly enjoyable surreal trip, there isn’t anything here that’s going to shatter your reality with its depth and significance. Still, I could go on for pages about the multitude of wonderfully strange touches in this movie, but truly there is no way to do them justice on the page, and this is one experience that has to be taken firsthand. This film is certainly not for everyone and definitely not something that mainstream movie goers are going to be able to appreciate. But for those of us who want to strap in for a unique experience of creative insanity, get the fuck in line for this one because Hectic Knife has “underground cult classic” written all over it.


Once Upon a Time at Christmas (2017)

OUTAC UK Poster 3 - Santa & Mrs Claus (2)When a horror movie has a holiday-themed premise, especially holidays other than Halloween, that’s often a sign that the audience is in for a campy ride that is going to play up the novelty to extreme proportions. Of course, that’s not always the case and some notable exceptions include the well-crafted, emotionally developed slasher Silent Night, Deadly Night as well as the incredibly creative and bizarre Rare Exports. Today, I discuss whether or not Once Upon a Time at Christmas falls into the category of holiday classics or if it’s just another poorly crafted product that falls apart almost immediately.

The story is set in the small town of Woodbridge New York where a maniacal couple in Santa suits (Simon Phillips) and (Sayla de Goede) begin a murderous rampage a few weeks before Christmas. Now it’s up to the local sheriff (Barry Kennedy) and a group of high school students to try and find out the reason for the killings and stop them before it’s too late.

When judging whether or not a film works, you really have to take into account what the director was going for in the first place. Clearly, in this instance, this is a film that’s intended as a fun holiday slasher, so judging it in terms of it’s realism isn’t a fair assessment. But even when viewed through that lens, there are some significant issues that prevent this from succeeding.OUaTaC 2

I don’t require a lot from a campy slasher to be entertained, but if you are going to ask me to sit through a silly premise with flat, generic characters that only exist to be slaughtered, then you at least need to bring the fucking blood. There are a lot of kills in OUaTaC, but for some baffling reason, director Paul Tanter takes a very timid approach to the violence. Even though numerous people are axe murdered, burned alive, or dispatched in other brutal ways, most of the violence occurs off camera or with very little blood. When the blood splatter does come, the film commits the egregious sin of using cheap CGI in place of a simple practical effect.

These kinds of half-measures are indicative of the film’s general approach to any remotely edgy content. This is perhaps best exemplified in the strip club scene that features zero nudity. Why even have it in there? I honestly don’t understand these half-hearted attempts at adult content that stop short of anything even slightly provocative. Why not just bleep out the fucking swears too, while you’re at it?

These issues of self-censorship wouldn’t be glaring if the overall film had a more solid foundation. Unfortunately, with so much cringe-worthy dialogue and uninspired characters, the film doesn’t really have a leg to stand on. Even for a slasher, the Claus’ near supernatural ability to appear wherever they need to is pushed to utterly absurd levels, and when the primary concept is finally revealed, it’s so goddamn silly that you’ll want to stab your eyes out with a candy cane.

OUaTaC 3

It’s not all bad though, from a technical standpoint the film is well-crafted and some of the characters do put in solid performances, the sheriff and his deputy among them. The Claus’ also clearly get it and commit to their scenery chewing mayhem with the kind of unhinged enthusiasm that perfectly fits the tone of the film. And that’s the thing, there is fun to be had here and I wish there was a re-cut version that leaned into the gruesome madness instead of shying away from it. Had that version existed I would have wholeheartedly recommended it as a fun Xmas slasher, but as it is, this feels like the film equivalent of unwrapping a pair of socks on Christmas morning.