OK, so, before we talk about Peter Vack’s debut comedy feature film Assholes, let’s start with some advisory statements. First of all, if you can’t handle early John Waters films like Pink Flamingos and Female Trouble, then stop right here. No, this film doesn’t get quite into that territory, but it’s close enough. Audiences can expect staged gonzo moments of extreme gross-out nature involving bodily fluids which I won’t fully spoil, but you should know right now: there is some sick, disgusting stuff going on in this crazy thing. Moments as bad and worse than “that” scene in Borat – you remember, the one with naked wrestling? The one where the whole audience was screaming and laughing at the same time, yelling “Eeeewwww!!!” and looking away, then looking back? Yeah, well, it gets worse than that. Maybe not quite Divine eating dog shit bad, but bad. So, somewhere between Borat and Divine. If you can hang with this crowd, then keep reading, otherwise, just keep away from Assholes.
Still here? Good. You will be rewarded, you pervert! This is one very bizarre, very funny movie, tailor-made for sickos and freaks (like me) who love it when comedies go far beyond the borders of bad taste. And yet, the raunch aspect is not the only place the film draws from. There are sequences recalling mid-career Woody Allen, from about Annie Hall to Hannah and Her Sisters, with monologues and dialogues that are quite humorously effective and well-acted. There’s an element of 80’s Saturday Night Live slapstick, landing loads of unflinching physical humor. Of course, there’s a tinge of Monty Python’s Flying Circus, and even a bit of mockumentary fun a la What We Do in the Shadows. In short, this isn’t just an insanely over-the-top, NC-17-ish exploitation flick. It’s actually a pretty boldly crafted bit of absurdist hilarity, heavy on pitch-perfect performances, that’s also smart enough to know when to ease off.
The story is about two sex-addicted drug abusers who act like assholes, over and over again, and in very extreme ways. Beyond the scatological, hypersexual and disease-ridden madness, there’s just a whole lot of people not behaving appropriately in public and in private. Some of which eventually gets bad enough that the couple…well, let’s just say, something very evil and surreal happens. The whole experience gets a lot more uncomfortable when you find out that in real life, the director Peter Vack cast his own sister, Betsey Brown, to be the leading lady in Assholes. You will not believe some of the hideous and debased things this very funny and talented woman did for the screen. With her brother directing. He also cast his best friend Jack Dunphy as her boyfriend. Prepare to see him in ways you never want to see anybody, both alone and in concert with Brown. Oh, and Vack’s parents are in the film, too, and get to see some of those depraved moments realized by their daughter. With their son directing. Vack stars in it, too. A real family affair, which even goes meta in the end credits. I want to warn you, to really tell you, you will be freaked out, but I can’t. I just don’t want to spoil the very unexpected fun the film has to offer. Go in if you dare, but don’t blame me if you end up puking while you watch.
In terms of craft, Vack is all over the place, as explained above, shifting aesthetic gears so as to be spoofing many of the work’s inspirations in different scenes. Again, one moment it’s very Woody Allen, the next kinda John Waters, the next a tad Monty Python and so forth. Those stylistic pivots can be distractingly jarring at times, and the film does have a few lulls (thankfully). But the uneven aspects are easily forgiven as this tour-de-force of super tasteless celluloid delivers what might just be the first authentic cult movie of the Millennial Generation. If this was 1985, this movie would be playing the midnight feature in the artsy part of town. If it came out in the 60’s, the filmmakers would be in jail. But it’s coming to VOD very soon, and so long as you like to laugh and are very resilient against squeamishness – do yourself a favor and watch this. With lots of friends. But maybe skip serving any food. Kudos to Vack and his brave (insane) cast. Keep the funny business coming, please.