Sunday, November 22, 2015

Review: Bill Huckstabelle – Serial Rapist

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

Bill Huckstabelle: Serial Rapist
Written, directed and edited by Jerry Landi
Fiona Studios / Amuck Duck Films
56 minutes, 2015

Since even before the days of Hostel (2005), the Roughie genre (pre-Sexploitation) has been coming back. Early versions of the style from the 1960s, for example, include Scum of the Earth (1963) and Bad Girls Go to Hell (1965). It’s the kind of film that feminists (rightfully) were up in arms about. It has resurged with the likes of the Japanese Guinea Pig series, or indies by those such as Dustin Mills (e.g., Her Name Was Torment [2014] and Applecart [2015], though to be fair, both genders are the objects in his releases).

Director Jerry Landi, known for his Blood Marsh Krackoon (2014), is back; his latest deals with, well, you-know-who, if you couldn’t tell by the name of the films. Y’know what is the difference between “Based on a true story/incident” and “Ripped from the headlines”? The former is predicated on something you’ve probably never heard of before, and the second has a foundation in someone or something infamous. Y\know what the two of them have in common? At least 95 percent bullshit. I’m not saying this is a bad thing, just the truth (pun intended). The major divergence with the second is you have a better chance to recognize the real bits, such as here.

Landi takes “America’s Dad” head on, albeit in a near completely fictionalized version of one of the most beloved / reviled actors in recent history. Although fictionalized, it does well to also make some fine points about the entire event, such as denial and blaming the victim (“it was so many years ago, why now?” as a co-worker recently said to me, about origin story). Throughout the review I will refer to the real person as Cos, and the fictitious one as Bill, just to keep them straight.

Having formed a friendship with director/actor Sean Weathers, Landi directs him in the first feature that Weathers stars in but has not directed. I was looking forward to seeing someone else lead point for Sean’s actions at least once to see some acting stretches.

Rather than the early 1960s, the back part of the story here takes place in 1990, so when they catch up to “now,” rather than being in his 80s, Bill is only in his supposed ‘50s (Sean looks way too young for that, being 35, but this is given as a compliment). The unfunny standup comedy routine (intentionally?; personally, I found the Cos stuff from his early career, before the revelations, hysterical) of Bill reflects back to Cos, with monsters and Skinny Vinny, both referencing a bit about Od Weird Harold. There is even a veiled indication of Cos’s first television show, I-Spy (1965-1968).

After the black and white flashback, we brought to the present, where Bill hosts a program called Kids Say the Dumbest Things, a not very hidden reference to the Cos’s own remake of Art Linkletter’s Kids Say the Darndest Things (1998-2000). Never saw the Cos version of the show, so I can’t speak to its accuracy. Bill’s show and endorsements, however, are in jeopardy thanks to the hounding by daytime television show host Cindy Marie (Weathers’ regular Sybelle Silverphoenix, giving the strongest performance I have seen her do so far). She has even interviews some of his alleged victims, such as the self-lip-lickin’ Casey (Sara Rosenberg).

Sybelle Silverphoenix
Bill is supported in public by his long-suffering wife, Leeanna (b-movie regular Erika Smith, playing a white version of Cos’s wife, Cam…let’s stop there) and his manager Schlomo Rosenberg (Landi regular and scene stealer Sal Amore); he is also helped in his evil, hidden side by sidekick Louie (Brian Martin) and the occasional others.

One of the references in the film is the Bill sit-com, “Safe at Home,” where he teaches his son about responsibility using fake money (a bit taken directly from the first episode of “The You-Know-Who Show”). But despite that, there is a lot of mixing up of timelines by changing the order of events, which is not a complaint in any kind of way, just an observation. But there are also some interesting little bits here and there, such as some anti-religious statements (not that I’m a fan of organized religion), and a negative mention of Kim Jong Un, my guess is to possibly raise The Interview (2014) level-reactions and publicity. Nice try, even if it ends as only a commentary on those events.

The following comment has nothing to do with anything, but this is filmed in the New York area, most likely Landi’s home turf of the Bronx, and Weathers’ locus of Brooklyn (Silverphoenix is also from da Bronx), and some of the accents are beautifully thick (I say that without sarcasm) as can be, especially Amore’s. Having grown up in Bensonhurst, with a Bronx-bred dad, it made me feel at home.

There is one thing regarding this film about which I felt a bit uncomfortable. In Weathers’ films, women are often mistreated, but there is either retribution, such as with They All Must Die (1998), or his own characters are treated more harshly in the long run, like in Act Jackson is a Dead Man (2015) or Scumbag Hustler (2014). It is the violence against women that is on display here, be it via beating, skinning, etc., that feels unbalanced. Even during the many rape scenes, the women are naked and the men are fully clothed. Heck, Weathers has been shown a propensity to be naked to show off the muscles at the drop of a lens cap in his own films, but that does not happen here. This one-sidedness is, to me, the biggest drawback of the film.

Brian Martin and Sean Weathers in the titular role
As the film proceeds and veers ever further from the latest reports on our 24-hour news cycle about Cos, by the end it’s (hopefully; who knows what really happened with Cos) completely over the top, and that is actually a somewhat good thing, because it helps with the “not based on any real or living person…” disclaimer thingie that goes at the end of every film.

The extras are the trailer, a 13-minute unrated “Making Of” that is a mix of gag reel, deleted scenes, and behind the camera stuff, and a really good 8-minute film called Rex Baily by Landi about a has-been and bitter baseball player, who signs autographs in a bar in the Bronx for a living (made me think of Mickey Mantle on many levels).

Honestly, this is not the most shocking film name I can think of off the top of my head – that would go to Bill Zubub’s similarly titled Jesus Christ: Serial Rapist (2004) – but this is definitely up there in the Troma-level Whaaaaaaaaah? class. It’s also pretty brave, if you think about it, because Cos could pos – er – I mean possibly find offense and do a law action (not saying the sue word, but cease and desist do come to mind).

If you like serial killer films or just human monsters in general, this might interest you. There is a lot of female nudity and violence, some decent acting, and a nice level of bang for the production buck. Den dere are doze axcents…

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