Monday, September 21, 2015

Review: The Fappening - The Director's Cut

Text © Richard Gary / Indie Horror Films, 2015
Images from the Internet

The Fappening: The Director's Cut
Directed by Sean Weathers
Full Circle Filmworks
75 minutes, 2015 

Brooklynite and urban cool guy Sean Weathers has finally returned to the horror genre with his take on the 2014 events of the cell phone hacking and mass distribution of nude celebrity pictures. Some have given the event the name “The Fappening.” For those who don’t know, the word “Fapping” is to – er – take oneself in hand while looking at said type pictures. Me? I’m old enough where my first thoughts were of the Supremes.

The trouble starts in this story when lothario director and actor Alan Smithee (Sean Weathers), who not only has a problem with what Kinky Friedman used to call Peruvian marching powder, i.e., coke, he sleeps with many women, which gets him into  deep doggy doo-doo when his personal sex selfies are among those distributed by the Fappening.

Seybelle Silverphoenix and Sean Weathers
As usual, Sean plays some fantasy version of himself; for those who don’t know, Alan Smithee is a pseudonym often used by directors who want to keep their real name anonymous for whatever reason. Smithee’s discussions about making indie films and wanting to break into the majors is probably a theme in Weathers’ life as well, but in this fictional version, things are going from bad to worse.
Not only is Smithee having trouble getting his latest project financed and is in profound debt and about to be kicked out of his Brooklyn apartment (Weathers’ own apartment substitutes for Smithee’s), but since the Fappening, no one will touch him and the women he photographed and taped having sex (shown in a montage in somewhat detail near the beginning; Sean does love to show off his toned bod and in the act with hot women...hmm, wonder if I’m jealous…) are now getting together a for a class action suit because he didn’t erase the evidence as they had asked.

This is all getting too much for him, until he snaps (as his characters are wont to do). Through some power of anonymous suggestion, he dons a mask and grabs a big butcher’s knife, and sets off to stop everyone on the lawsuit list. This leads to a large body count via various means of disposal, though mostly by stabbing.

Tina Krause
Weathers has gathered quite the cast here, many playing a version of themselves, i.e., characters having the same names as the actors. For example, the person he wants for his agent is one of my fave 1990s scream queens, and fellow Brooklynite, Tina Krause (pronounced Kross). I have been a fan since her W.A.V.E. days (though I wasn’t a fan of that company’s S&M releases), and I had the chance to meet her once at a New Jersey Chiller Theatre; she was nice to me and let me take a picture.

Other actresses doing similar turns include Rachel Robbins and fire dancer Sky Soto. Then there are the cameos of genre directors, again as themselves, such as the great Lloyd Kaufmann (who Weathers once interviewed on his podcast, and came across as, well, Lloyd Kaufmann on Toxie steroids), Joel Reed (1976’s Bloodsucking Freaks), and Jerry Landi (2014’s Bloodmarsh Kracoons, a film I definitely would love to see). Landi was also the Cinematographer for The Fappening, replacing (temporarily?) Weathers’ usual film companion d’arms Aswad Issa.

As for the women who play the disgruntled bedmates, well, most are quite stunning. For example, there’s Weathers’ stalwart Sybelle Silverphoenix (she’s been in more of his films than any other actress) in electric blue lipstick who shows she can handle self-effacing humor, as when she says to Smithee’s landlord, “I’m Jennifer. I know you remember me; it’s kind of hard not to.”

I would also like to take a sec and give a nod to Adonis Williams. In Weathers’ films, he’s the threatening gangsta hoodlum / drug dealer. Well, he plays a similar role here, but it’s much more flushed out, and his acting skills have actually grown quite well. Not DeNiro yet, but he manages to be both scary and sympathetic at the same time. Nice work, Adonis; in some weird way I’m proud of you. Meanwhile, as an inside joke, Adonis’s character is named Jason Voohrees, but he doesn’t get it when Smithee keeps giving him the names of horror characters (e.g., Freddy Kruger) as people in the film and record industry to throw him off, as he does not recognize any of them.

Erika Smith
Sean always manages to wisely use his films as a political forum, sometimes quite shrewdly. For example, at the beginning of this one, while celebutard Kim Kardashian (played by the much cuter Erika Smith, who steals her scenes as Kim, being hysterically funny and scarily accurate) is being interviewed about her images being released, the news scrawl of the bottom of the newscast indicates a black youth hade been shot for smoking a cigarette the cops thought was weed, while a white CEO who embezzled millions gets a slap on the wrist. This segment can also be interpreted  in a non-spoken comment on Kardashian’s history of sleeping with African-American men (though in the case of Kanye, an African-American man-child). Weathers is one of the few, brave indies that knows how to weave the real-life horrors into the fictional ones.
There are many shrewd moments throughout the film, and one that’s bound to stick out and be memorable, is the humorous scene where Weathers is talking with Robbins, and they start using the lyrics of “Don’t You Want Me” by the Human League that sneak in naturally as conversation, starting with “You were working as a waitress in a cocktail bar when I met you…”  About this, Weathers told me in an IM message, “…when I rehearsed it I realized how close the scene fit the song, so the day before we shot it, I said screw it and just rewrote the scene and put the lyrics in; most people get a laugh out of it. … I love it when movies [I see] make me want to play a song.”

Rachel Robbins
This is Weathers’ straight-out first feature horror film in a long time, so it’s good to see him get back to his roots. The cast and crew hide the fact that this was probably a micro-budget release, and Sean knows how to work the locations to give it a fuller feel. Even when the action takes place in his small apartment, you never feel claustrophobic.

To me, the one flaw in the film, and this is a lack of suspension of disbelief on my part, is that I cannot believe he was able to do that many killings without being caught, even though all the action is supposed to take place in a single day. One person is on a cell phone to the police screaming his name, and he never, ever wears gloves. Also, some of the killings are done in his own apartment, but you never see him get rid of the bodies, even when people come and go there.

As I’ve said before, with each release, Weathers’ style is becoming more of his own form, and being helped by Landi I’m sure has helped him to get further to achieving that goal. Definitely one of Weathers’ better films, and I’ve enjoyed most of them.

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