Saturday, 6 August 2011

Hobo With A Shotgun (Jason Eisener, 2011)

In 2007 Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino brought us Planet Terror and Death Proof respectively, in the form of Grindhouse - a modern-day exploitation double bill (featuring fake trailers, one of which - Machete - has since become a feature), that flopped at the American box office, but which caught much more attention on home video. Grindhouse might not have set the world alight when it came to dollars exchanged at the ticket booth, but it has inspired a resurgence within the horror genre of pseudo-exploitationers inspired by the gritty and lurid fare that was synonymous with drive-ins across America and flea pit theatres on New York's 42nd street. Flicks such as Run! Bitch Run! (Joseph Guzman, 2009), and Nude Nuns With Big Guns (Joseph Guzman, 2010), hark back to infamous rape/revenge movies such as Last House on the Left (Wes Craven, 1972) and I Spit On Your Grave (Meir Zarchi, 1978), while more tongue-in-cheek outings such as Black Dynamite (Scott Sanders, 2009) are half-homage, half-parody (in the latter instance, of the blaxploitation cycle). Some of these post-Grindhouse movies spoof the era of sleaze-filled low budget titilating shockers, while others embrace it with true affection.

Hobo With A Shotgun is one of the latter. There is a streak of black humour that runs deep throughout Eisener's brash, brazen, and downright ballsy feature length debut, but it's set within a world - the hellish setting of 'Scum Town' - that expects you to take it, for the most part, deadly seriously.

Originating as a fake trailer - completed over two weeks for $120 - that won a competition in connection with the release of QT & RR's Grindhouse, Eisener's memorable trailer (that does exactly what it says in the title), became an instant must-see for the fans (much the same reaction was afforded to the faux trailer for Machete). A few years down the line, and after a typically hardcore short film called Treevenge, Eisener got the money - and the star - for his grot-tastic debut.

Rutger Hauer, in his first centre-stage role for a good while, brings the heart of the movie to the foreground by playing the titular Hobo - a man who just wants to start afresh, to buy a lawnmower and build his own business. However, upon his arrival in the so-called Scum Town, he discovers that it is full of abused citizens, dirty cops, addicts, pushers, pimps and prostitutes - a hell hole orchestrated by The Drake (Brian Downey) and his two sons Slick (Gregory Smith) and Ivan (Nick Bateman). The Hobo witnesses the grime, horror, and corruption that consumes the town first hand, and despite trying to stay out of it, he's drawn inevitably into taking action - in a blisteringly entertaining, fist-in-the-air-inspiring, take-down of three armed robbers with - you guessed it - a shotgun. From this point forth he stops begging, and demands change, much to the anger of The Drake and his heirs, who rage all-out war against the Hobo, his new-found sidekick Abby (Molly Dunsworth), and the town at large.

Content wise, Hobo is chock-full with jaw-dropping moments of violence that are drowned in torrents of blood (The Plague being a particular highlight), moments that are illuminated by Karim Hussain's striking colour palette and gor(e)geous 2.35:1 presentation. The visuals are as arresting as the content, and indeed the same can be said of the soundtrack, which features (among others) the John Carpenter-esque stylings of Powerglove. Furthermore, cutting in sharply after a barrage of pounding gunfire and tortured screaming, is the inclusion of "Run With Us" by Lisa Lougheed - a track that those of a certain age will recognise as the closing themetune to The Racoons (a cartoon from the 1980s).

Hobo is a stand-out debut, and one that has a real sense of audience inclusion - it's a film made by fans, for fans, of a particular type of filmmaking. Indeed, this sense of closeness to its target audience, was mirrored by a similar faux trailer competition that was run recently to find a new trailer to be included on the home video presentation (the winner was Van Gore, a clash of slasher schlock and the art scene). What's more, it's an inspiring film to watch (and learn about) as an aspiring filmmaker. While some will no doubt hate Hobo With A Shotgun (no doubt some of the same people who didn't dig on Machete, or Grindhouse), if it happens to be your cup of tea, get ready to experience your favourite film of 2011 - I know I have.

Impressively the Blu-Ray presentation doesn't let the film down, complimenting it with a solid audio/visual presentation, and a jam-packed host of in-depth extras. Here in the UK, Momentum Pictures have done themselves proud by porting over the American "Collector's Edition" Blu-Ray release to our shores (despite what the press release claimed in advance). If you're mad for Hobo (e.g. you devoured every video blog and teaser trailer during its online grassroots advertising campaign), then the Blu-Ray is a must-buy (and at a very reasonable price to boot). Two friendly and informative audio commentaries, an involving Making Of, 106 minutes of behind the scenes clips (viewable individually, collectively, or in the interactive 'Shotgun Mode' during the movie), Deleted Scenes, an Alternate Ending, in-depth Fangoria Interviews, a series of video blogs, the original Hobo trailer, Red Band Trailers, a HD-Net EPK, and the faux trailer contest winner Van Gore. To put it simply, the disc is chock-full of blood-soaked, shotgun-toting kick-assery.

Jason Eisener's direction displays a confident showmanship that mixes well with John Davies' gleefully excessive script (full-to-the-brim with instantly quotable dialogue), Karim Hussein's bold style, and Rutger Hauer's stand-out performance that is one part grizzled arse-kicker, one part reluctant and damaged outcast. Top marks for a first class slice of modern-day exploitation with real heart (both in front of and behind the camera), and maximum bonus points for a tip-top Blu-Ray presentation.

Without a shadow of a doubt, Hobo With A Shotgun is my number one flick of 2011.

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