TFW 2012: FATHER'S DAY

J Hurtado, Contributing Writer
I am an Astron-6 junkie.

Ever since I saw their faux trailer for the brilliantly titled Lazer Ghosts 2: Return to Laser Cove (yes, laser is spelled two different ways in the title), I was hooked. This is a band of miscreants with whom I share a common twisted sensibility and genuine love for trash filmmaking. As a thirty-two year old man who grew up scouring the shelves of his local Mom & Pop video stores for hidden treasure, I understand the aesthetic that Astron-6 mas made their trademark. Last year I reviewed the Astron-6 short films collection from Troma, and in that set was evidence galore of the boys' fondness for '80s films of all stripes. However, their love of late '70s-early '80s exploitation/horror films has never found a more cohesive shape than in their 2011 Toronto After Dark award winner, Father's Day.

Everything about Father's Day is completely ridiculous. The concept, the gore, the acting, the writing, the FX work, the imagery, it goes beyond pushing the envelope to shattering the bounds of decency. The story about a one-eyed vigilante who joins forces with a gay hustler and a young priest on a quest to take down a Father-raping serial killer is epic in its scope. This is the kind of film we all expected to see inside all of those VHS boxes with the fabulous artwork but we were so often disappointed by reality. Father's Day delivers the goods, in spades.

This is the kind of film which will split an audience right down the middle. The hardcore dour gorehounds may walk out of Father's Day pissed off that the film, which deals with murder and mutilation, is too light-hearted. There are no two ways around it, Father's Day is a very jokey film, the gore is played for laughs, the script has some extremely deadpan humor, and every time it seems like its going to get serious, something ridiculous happens. In the recent spate of "grindhouse" films that have barreled through theaters and video rental stores, many have suffered from being overly "winky", and playing too much to the nostalgia factor. It can be a major drawback when the films stop being about the story, and spend too much time showing you how much they know about older exploitation faves. However, Father's Day does it right, and is similarly successful in its tributary efforts to Black Dynamite, both filmmakers love the films they reference, but don't forget that they have a story to tell.

This latest screening at Texas Frightmare Weekend, my second viewing of this film, was jam packed with a crowd who was exactly the opposite of the grumplestiltskins in the previous paragraph. We were all there to have fun, and, goddammit, fun was had! The crowd cheered, laughed, and gasped at all the right moments. The gore setpieces, many of which among the most gruesome I've ever seen and all done in house by Astron-6's FX guru, led to some incredulous reactions in the convention hall, which I'm sure was the intention. Just when you think the camera is going to cut and not show you what happens next, a hypodermic needle enters a very sensitive spot very graphically. Astron-6 are the slaves of their art, and while they may not make the most marketable films, they certainly are on top of the heap in this realm.

Typically, even in my most effusive reviews, I'll point out a few flaws, just to show that I'm not a shill for anyone, but I'm having a hard time coming up with anything this time. The first time I saw this film back in February at the historic Texas Theatre, the crowd was small, and not terribly emotive. I think that this made the film feel a little longer than it needed to be at 99 minutes, however, seeing the film with an appreciative audience made it absolutely fly by. An argument could be made regarding the necessity of certain scenes in the film, however, attempting to edit a film like Father's Day for pacing is a kind of missing the point. The humor is all in the extra bits. I appreciated every joke all over again, and they all landed with the audience exactly as they were meant to. This film is a giant success for the Astron-6 team.

With any luck, I'll be reviewing the Blu-ray edition of the film in a few weeks, and I cannot wait to see it again. I'm giving serious thought to setting up a small viewing party with like-minded folks because this is really a film that gets so much better with a supportive crowd. It's amazing what a talented group of hungry, passionate filmmakers can do with $10,000. It makes all of those multi-bazillion dollar blockbusters look like the colossal wastes of money they really are. Support Astron-6 and Father's Day. If ever there was a Twitch friendly film family, these guys are it!
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