Farley M. Gagne
No budget Grindhouse
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Dead Hooker in a Trunk (2011)
7th Jul 11
There’s a deceased lady of the night in the boot of someone’s car. Coming soon : Barely Alive Midget In A Heinz Soup Can and Mortally Wounded German Abuse Victim In An Ash Tray.
Since the release of high-profile pseudo-grungefest Grindhouse, everybody seems to be keen to get in on the act of churning out a no-budget, self-consciously trashy exploitation picture with one cynical eye on the riches to be gained from a cult following. These movies are easy to spot by the titles adorning their deliberately gaudy / raunchy DVD sleeves : self-explanatory monikers like Nude Nuns With Big Guns, Bitch Slap and, now, Dead Hooker In A Trunk from filmmaking sisters Jen and Sylvia Soska. They wrote, starred in and directed this knowingly nasty wannabe-True Romance but the emptiness of their flashy, slick visual / cutting style merely serves to highlight that trying hard to be edgy and naughty will always come off as desperate and sad.
The current cycle of latter-day B pictures sees lesser filmmakers straining to tap into the genre-savvy retro-fixated cinematic cult of Tarantino without conveying the genuine love Tarantino (whatever you think of his movies) shows for the old-school cult movies in everything he does. Dead Hooker In A Trunk yearns to be a hip, sexy contemporary take on the mighty They Call Her One Eye (already given a pleasant homage by Tarantino himself via the Kill Bill duo) but ends up as a charmless, witless reminder that you can’t create a cult movie with just chainsaws and torture scenes set to 60’s easy listening. Of the recent bunch, the sublime Hobo With A Shotgun and the wonderfully dry Rubber, neither of which show the kind of contempt the Soska sisters display to their audience here, particularly succeeded in capturing the anything-goes tone of the movies they homage in a clever and genuinely amusing fashion.
The main plot set-up is oddly similar to the surprisingly mean-spirited Hollywood Hangover movies, the second of which (out this summer) comes oddly close to being as joyless as this far cheaper affair. After a “fuzzy” night out, two sisters with self-explanatory character names, “Badass” and “Geek” (joining them in the ensemble are “Cunt”, “Killer” and “Junkie”) discover a murdered, drug-laden hooker in their (you guessed it!) trunk. “Geek” caves in after much discussion about what to do with the body and calls the police anonymously while Badass fucks her way out of awkward spots and cops, pimps and a hooker-killing serial murderer are soon on their trail.
The movie occasionally diverts from sadly banal dialogue (“You know I fucking hate fucking cops!”) to deliver the kind of splashy gunshot wounds, intestine spillage, eyeball removals and truck-instigated arm severings you pays your money for. An unconvincing but still reasonably gruelling hammer-and-chisel dental torture scene is this movie’s answer to the Reservoir Dogs ear removal, and genuine laughs are to be had from the movie’s puncturing of Christian youth groups – all goofy song odes to Jesus and bake sales -, a member of which cuts loose at one key moment of hysteria, screaming “You fist-fucker!” at a corpse.
Alas, the characters lack appeal, the staging of the gore highlights is oddly flat and even the climactic staging of the hooker-killing itself (clearly aspiring to one-up the unforgettable beating of Patricia Arquette in True Romance) is underwhelming. Unwarranted sentimentality toward this obnoxious bunch is laid on with the same trowel that distributes the soundtrack, and all of it reminds us of just how much queasier, edgier fun this kind of movie was in the 1970’s. (Note: they did full-body burns a lot better, too.).