The Editor (2014)
Editor’s Note: The following review is part of our coverage of the 2015 Boston Underground Film Festival. For more information on the festival visit bostonunderground.org and follow BUFF on Twitter @.
For years I have been struggling to understand this grindhouse resurgence. The generation of dirty theaters with even dirtier movies was before mine, so I don’t share this reverence for the absurd. Scratched up prints, missing reels, laughably awful acting, and buckets of fake blood seemed like a gimmick, an excuse to not make something worthwhile. I tried to get into Troma but was left cold, feeling as if they weren’t even trying to make something watchable, focused far too hard on the terrible. Sure I like Tarantino and Rodriguez’s Grindhouse, but I’m pretty much onboard with all of their films (that is, until Rodriguez seemingly chose to do nothing but this genre). So as I kicked aside duds like Hobo with a Shotgun, my miniscule awareness of the Astron-6 team was accompanied by low expectations. Then I saw The Editor. I get it now.
The laughs are frequent, the gore is over-the-top and of the practical variety, and there is nudity aplenty.
The assumption of these new grindhouse films has always been that those making them really understand what they’re trying to do. But they have always come off as nothing more than inside jokes. There was no real attempt to make this for audiences, these were vanity projects for the creators and their groups of friends. With The Editor, co-directors Adam Brooks and Matthew Kennedy craft a film that is just plain entertaining. The laughs are frequent, the gore is over-the-top and of the practical variety, and there is nudity aplenty. This is a film that you go to see with a group of friends. You laugh together, you gasp together, and eventually you walk out talking about it together.
The Editor draws upon the trash Italian horror films of the 70s and for those well versed in Argento, Fulci, and the giallo aesthetic, the film is like a gift. This isn’t merely an aping of the style or parody but rather a celebration of the genre. Brooks and Kennedy’s admiration for it is right there on the screen, from the music to the unrelenting violence complete with hyper-stylized visuals and buckets of blood, it revels in all of the eccentricities of giallo. The more impressive feat is not the ability to craft a film that will please the giallo faithful, but rather making one that works across audiences, regardless of familiarity. For those that love the messy genre as it is, The Editor is simply like another, more self-aware entry. But for the uninitiated, it manages to transcend its genre as an endlessly entertaining strange little horror comedy.
In the film’s front half has a ridiculous wit that is both over-the-top and damn smart. The wackier characters like Conor Sweeney’s homoerotic Cal and Matthew Kennedy’s confident and dim-witted Inspector Porfiry are nearly slapstick in their buffoonery. Then there is Adam Brooks as the titular editor, who seems to communicate in only whispers and anguished gestures. Although in stark contrast to much of the cast, Brooks’ Ciso fits right in, like a point of near sanity in a madhouse. He is the only source of emotional connection in a film that by design should really not even be capable of such feats. It is a quiet and balanced performance that adds a surprising bit of nuance to a categorically weird feature.
The love and admiration for giallo pops off of the screen and convinces even the staunchest cheap film deniers to board this bus of weird.
Oddly, however, the film exists like two nearly separate halves. The front is packed with humor and moves at a clipped pace, leaving many of the jokes to be buried in the audience’s laughter. But as the film progresses it makes a slight shift to nearly straight horror. Rather than laughing at the ridiculous deaths they begin to feel heavier. Cringes and repulsion move in to replace the laughter and the film manages some genuinely scary and nausea inducing moments. This horror element becomes even more stylized and the directors wring every dollar they possibly can out of their miniscule budget without looking cheap. On their own, both halves work, but together the cohesion is less complete, and the back half, while certainly scarier, is poorly paced in comparison.
Like most things, doing something that looks easy well, is extremely difficult. When it comes to capturing the grindhouse aesthetic for a modern audience, the Astron-6 team is the leader of the pack. In their latest, they have transported us back to the grungy dive theaters of the 1970s and shown us just why this genre garnered such a large following. Directors Adam Brooks and Matthew Kennedy push the style past the realm of parodic into that of the celebratory. The love and admiration for giallo pops off of the screen and convinces even the staunchest cheap film deniers to board this bus of weird. Brooks and Kennedy don’t merely pretend to be a giallo film, for all intents and purposes this is a giallo film. The Editor brings together all of the best and worst-best pieces of a ridiculous genre. It is a strange, dirty, laugh-out-loud funny bit of cinephilic candy that is both completely disgusting and absolutely delightful.
The Editor brings together all of the best and worst-best pieces of a ridiculous genre. It is a strange, dirty, laugh-out-loud funny bit of cinephilic candy that is both completely disgusting and absolutely delightful.