Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Review: Skumbagz

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

Skumbagz (aka $kumbagz)
Written, directed and edited by John Miller
The Sleaze Box / Icon Film Studios Company
72 minutes / 2015

In a sick and twisted way, one could almost look at this as a retelling of Candide (check to see if Voltaire is turning over in his grave yet, because I’ve only just started).

Diminutive, tattooed and toothily cute 25-year-old Stephanie (played by the aptly named Krystal Pixie Adams, aka fetish model Pixie VonBat) is bullied by her parents (real life couple M. Catherine Wynkoop and Joel Wynkoop, the latter being the infamous co-lead star of Tim Ritter’s 1995 classic, Creep), but no more than herself. She looks in the mirror before going to her burger flipping job and states, “You are one ugly bitch, Stephanie.” The problem is her parents want her to have a better life with goals (what bastards!), but she’s a slacker who essentially lives in the moment, and just can’t seem to think past her present involvement. This also means she cannot see consequences.

Her middle-aged burger boss, Mr. Estevez (Herb Kowalski in a wig and fake eyebrows that kinda look like they were made out of shag carpet) is disappointed in her because she gives services the staff orally, but not him. He humorously tries to impress her by bragging, “I started as a stockboy and worked my way all the way up to Assistant Night Manager. I make $12.50 an hour now, y’know what I mean?” It’s moments like these that make one realize that this is actually a very, very dark dramedy.

Without going into very much detail, after being (allegedly) “Bill Cosby’d,” she ends up being hooked out to druggies and drunkies by some older, biker guy named Reo (Joe Makowski), who spouts lines like “You have to look life in the face, and life’s an ugly motherfucker, let me tell you!” He is a low-lifer, an addict, and the member of a three-man criminal ring, along with Samir (Bob Glazier) and Mookie (Jules Sceiro), who make him look like mastermind Lex Luthor.

There is a scene with the three of them that I’m sure was going for a Tarantino-esque moment, with a long tirade around a table about the sex lives of the presidents since Ronnie “I single-handedly ruined America by handing it over to the religious skumbagz” Reagan. How this scene ends, well, you’ll have to see it, but it comes to a natural conclusion in its context (and when you watch it, don’t say you were surprised, even if you were amused).

Krystal Pixie Adams and John Miller
Through all these demeaning men (feminists should be righteously angered by most of this), there is only one (anti)hero with the whaaaaat? name of 6’9 (the film’s director, John Miller), a “nice” guy who sells drugs and yes, pimps out our little Steph, replacing his previous call-girl (Ashley Lynn Caputo, whose character died so gruesomely in American Guinea Pig in 2014). But is willing to share the proceeds (shown in a shopping montage where he has final say over what she buys) and not beat her, so he must be considered caring.

This leads to a rivalry with a black gang (if this is Florida – even if it is Tampa – where are all the Latinos? Just askin’…) expressed in part through arguably the longest twerking-while-having-cash-flung-around montage in cinema history.

While all this is happening, Steph tends to whine, but keep believing it’s the best it can be at the moment (hence, Candide; you can stop spinning now, Francois-Marie). I’m not sure if this film is promoting that it’s worth it to work a regular job or it’s not; in other words, in this situation, I’m not sure of its philosophy, but it’s an interesting journey for Stephanie and the viewer.

If you were to gather the average IQ of all the people Steph meets (and arguably herself) after she leaves home, it might come out to a double-digit number. But, sometimes these are the people who vote Republica… I mean share our world too, right?

The film has an interesting Creepshow (1982) lighting, with stark primary colors that wash the scenes, such as blue, red, yellow, and green. Many of the shots are medium, though the intoxication ones are usually close-up (and angular; a bit clich√© but still works), and the sex scenes are either a bit further back, as it’s better to see more body parts, or very close up, to see...details.

Speaking of which, is there a lot of female nudity (no male), including a hardcore girl-on-girl oral one involving Pixie (who smiles directly at the camera/director as if to give the breaking the fourth wall okay) and equally tattooed Niecy Nice. This was a surprise, as was Nice’s intimate masturbatory poking. As for the blood and gore, there’s much of it, though except for one brain splattered scene, it looks like not much attention was paid to it, which is okay, because this is a crime drama, not a slasher film.

Another interesting and unexpected addition was a couple of fantasy scenes (at least I think at least one of them was in the first act) that added to the flavor of the film. The music is a bit schizophrenic, but I’m sure that’s meant as different groups having sounds that signify their own space, such as the Reo scenes having old-tyme Americana songs (think of 2000’s O Brother, Where Art Thou?) and the gang members possessing a rap background, including songs by one of the actors, George “T-geezy” Streets.

As for the acting, well, it’s what’s to be expected sometimes of micro-budget indie films. Sometimes you have to look more to the action and the zeitgeist of the entire story, rather than the players participating. It was hardly in the category of the worst I’ve seen (e.g., there’s no looking to the side for the card readings like in most airings of “Saturday Night Live”), but it does have a bit of an amateur level to it.

All in all, there’s enough to recommend, and stuff you need to be a genre fan to really get a kick out of it. I fall into the latter category, and found multiple things to like, but it’s tempered by a couple of scenes that could have been cut down further (such as the aforementioned Twerking montage… actually, there were possibly too many montages in general). But I did enjoy the film, and that’s sayin’ something.

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