Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Peter Vack's ASSHOLES (his movie, not his anatomy-plus-one) pushes the envelope another mile or two

A film for which the term gross-out must surely have been created, ASSHOLES exists to shock via schlock. It succeeds. Unlike last year's The Greasy Strangler, which also pushed the envelope but provided a good deal more fun in the process, this new example of barrier-busting proves a little too reliant on shock-value only and humor that hits us mostly via heavy hand and flat foot. As written and directed by Peter Vack (who also co-stars in the film as its "heroine's" brother), the movie combines bedroom and bathroom activities in a manner that will turn many stomachs but, inevitably, also a few heads. Its success will depend in good part on how willing you are to revel in the very, very naughty -- i.e: images of shit and herpes-encrusted mouths, noses and one flaccid penis.

Mr. Vack, shown at right, has a good deal more acting bona fides than those in the writing/directing category. This is his first-length film, and I do hope he's gotten certain bugs out of his system by giving it to us. If so, it will have served a below-the-surface purpose. If not, well, I wonder just how much further he can push that envelope without destroying it completely -- along with us viewers. The tale he has to tell is of two friends who, they eventually discover, go to the same therapist, so one day, post-therapy, they head to his apartment for some sex, during which they also discover they share a fixation with assholes.

They also happen to be addicts, who soon fall into a new addiction to poppers, which leads them into all sorts of naughtiness, the nadir of which is somehow rousing a demon out of one (maybe both) of their titular nether regions. The cast is certainly game, with the two leads (Betsey Brown and Jack Dunphy, shown above and below, left and right respectively) jumping into the spirit of the piece with both barrels and a number of orifices. The most professional performances -- I suspect because the actors are not required to gross us out so very often -- come from the performers who play our heroine's parents: Jane Brown and Ron Brown. (Is this perhaps a family affair?)

Among the bizarre non-delights of the film are the close-ups of the herpes virus in full swing, and an image that, I swear, looks like it came right out of the execrable Mother!'s opening shot, which appears here, inserted into a scene of 69 anal sex. The movie's funniest moments occur during a group therapy session amongst some analysts into which the pretend-Census Bureau barges.

Along the way Vack makes fun of everything from analysis to vomit, disease, sex and death. Unfortunately none of this turns out to be much fun for the viewer. Almost all the filmmaker's scenes go on too long, and the musical score blares loudly and often. But, hey, give the guy credit: He does bust a bunch of taboos. Unnecessarily.

From Factory 25 and Breaking Glass Pictures, Assholes opens theatrically this Friday, October 6, in New York City (at the ever-daring Cinema Village) and at the Parkway in Baltimore for a one-week run; and for one showing only at the Alamo Drafthouse in Yonkers, NY, on Saturday, October 7 at 10pm. It will come to VOD on Tuesday, October 24. Your move.

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