Bloody Knuckles (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 @.
America is synonymous with free speech or at least that’s the branding it purports. For most of my life, it’s hard to recall an amendment more oft cited than the first. Sure, with the ever-present right wing agenda this has lately been shifting to good ole number two, but I think freedom of speech will hold on. Importance aside, number one is touted about so aggressively because of the access all have to it. In theory, anyone with a thought can exercise his first amendment right. Like it or not, that means the protection of things you don’t want to hear and views with which you disagree. This is the thesis presented in Bloody Knuckles, at least when it remembers to make it.
Despite the strength of the message and the slightly altered viewpoint, O’Mahoney seems to tire of it immediately.
Writer-director Matt O’Mahoney jumps out of the gate waving this flag of civil liberty. His belief in defending art for art’s sake, even when that art may be deemed vulgar by most, is far from hidden in the film’s first moments. It’s a lofty premise for such a down-and-dirty little horror comedy, but it is at least respectable to have a reason for your depravity. Despite the strength of the message and the slightly altered viewpoint, O’Mahoney seems to tire of it immediately. Was it just an excuse to make a gross little comedy? Maybe. But it feels like a lost opportunity to make a better film.
It’s not that Bloody Knuckles is bad per se. Assuredly no one is walking into the film expecting some groundbreaking treatise on the nature of art or a deep exploration of whether or not certain voices should remain unstifled. But even as a low budget horror, it struggles to be anything more than just OK. It has the usual trappings of a low budget, the acting is passable to bad (Kasey Ryne Mazak as Leonard Fong is particular awful), the sets are dressed in neglect, and the visual aesthetic is staid. However, there are glimpses of something better, suggesting that O’Mahoney has more talent as both a writer and director than is actually on display here.
The ultra-violence and general seedy environment is reminiscent of Robocop sans any kind of effective allegorical development. There is a confidence of vision in the choices that O’Mahoney makes, trading the normally gorgeous vistas of Vancouver for a darker underbelly of rot and discord. The effects are largely practical, a welcomed breath of nostalgic air in the age of CGI, and for the most part are surprisingly well done. The dismembered hand in particular works because it doesn’t look slapdash. Perhaps more impressive than anything else is how the film deftly avoids comparisons to Idle Hands or Evil Dead II. All posters and promotional pictures smack of retread, but O’Mahoney somehow moves past it, not even venturing into an explanation of its reanimation, but focusing on its utilization as a vehicle for his protagonist’s redemption.
But more than anything else, the brightest shining light in all of Bloody Knuckles is Dwayne Bryshun’s Homo Dynamous. Like an absurd cartoon come to life, Homo Dynamous commands every single scene he inhabits […] He is the film’s savior.
In the writing and development of his main characters, O’Mahoney struggles to make them memorable or at least likable. Adam Boys’ Travis is annoyingly entitled until he is categorically uninteresting. Gabrielle Giraud’s Amy is little more than a love interest placeholder, a boy’s idea of an empowered woman. Even the villains are bland, not helped by the pervasive undercurrent of racism and atrocious acting. No, Bloody Knuckles’ strength comes in its side characters and small moments. Ken Tsui’s Ralphie is a well-delivered friend and foil to Travis, with moxie and wit to make him pop more than should be expected. But more than anything else, the brightest shining light in all of Bloody Knuckles is Dwayne Bryshun’s Homo Dynamous. Like an absurd cartoon come to life, Homo Dynamous commands every single scene he inhabits. His dialogue is not only the best written and most consistently laugh-inducing, but it is elevated to hilarious levels by Bryshun’s delivery. Without Homo Dynamous, Bloody Knuckles would fade away. He is the film’s savior.
Alas, like many of the film’s tastiest bits, they are small and scattered. O’Mahoney is unfortunately a slave to his familiarly mediocre script. Despite the bright spots of promise, the mundane overcomes the film. Although the last third ups the violence and gore to ridiculous levels, it is the last ditch effort of a creature dying of boredom. The laughs are infrequent, the story uninspired, the acting unobtrusively bad, and the direction merely acceptable. O’Mahoney starts Bloody Knuckles with a bold prospect of supporting the right to offend, but he loses his focus as he goes through the motions of delivering something that can exist as a feature. With every lame joke or expected plot development he moves further away from his original mission. Bloody Knuckles is perhaps best enjoyed with some amount of alcohol and friends whose commentary would certainly be more entertaining. It quickly tires of its own message and the result is upsettingly inoffensive and forgettable.
A Homo Dynamous movie though, now that would be something to see.
Bloody Knuckles is perhaps best enjoyed with some amount of alcohol and friends whose commentary would certainly be more entertaining. It quickly tires of its own message and the result is upsettingly inoffensive and forgettable.