Best Of Tromadance Film Festival, Volume 5 [Movie reviews by John Bruni]

Best Of Tromadance Film Festival Vol. 52009
Various directors
My rating: *** (for the entire collection; individual ratings below)
Tromadance Official Site

In the fifth (and so far, final) installment of Troma’s THE BEST OF TROMADANCE series, we get another heaping helping of short independent films, some good, some bad, and some mediocre, and as with each outing, not everything we get is horror related. Still, there continues to be enough to justify the attention of Forced Viewing, so without further ado . . . .

* * *

CANNIBAL GIRL AND INCEST BOY
Directed by Richard Taylor
13 minutes
Rating: Mixed

We start out with Lloyd Kaufman himself walking like a fool down the street just in time to be attacked by a hot chick—Cannibal Girl (Janine Laurent)—to stomp his head in true Troma style. After we witness her eating Kaufman’s brains, we meet Incest Boy (Paul Lucero) as he’s being dragged around on a leash and beaten by his pregnant mother. She  leaves him tied up outside an abortion clinic so she can get her baby (most definitely a late-term kiddie) sucked out of her. He watches Cannibal Girl slaughter and eat all the protestors outside before she sets him free. After she sees how his mother treats him, though, Cannibal Girl attacks this bitch of a woman and fists her to death. From there, the budding romance between Cannibal Girl and Incest Boy blossoms into something beautiful and violent. The actors are pretty decent in their roles, if a bit silly at times. Director Richard Taylor has a great feel for imagery as well, but his problem is with execution. This is a silent movie with a nice soundtrack, but the effects are just terrible, even by Troma’s standards. Even worse, the grainy picture quality ruins any chance you have of really enjoying this film, and the stupid ending is more punishment than reward for slogging through a lot of Taylor’s crap. Still, it’s not bad and worth a look.

CHICKEN ASS
Directed by Joe Weaver
5 minutes
Rating: Mixed

The first part of this film is shot like a series of newscasts. Apparently, there’s a horrible plague improbably called Chicken Ass spreading across the world. You can catch it from toilet seats, and it is deadly and incurable. The second part depicts an unfortunate man catching the disease and what happens when he succumbs to it. Let’s face it. There is no spoiler to this one. When you have Chicken Ass, a chicken tears its way out of your ass in a violent and bloody way. When you think about it, what better way to worm your way into Kaufman’s heart than to do a poultry-related horror movie? (POULTRYGEIST, anyone?) It’s a funny effort, with some nice gore, but it’s mostly stupid.

BAD APPLES
Directed by Patrick Rea
7 minutes
Rating: Con

A kid on his way to school discovers a tree bearing glowing apples. He picks a few of them and brings them with him. While he’s in class, he takes them out of the bag and is surprised to discover that they’ve grown some facial features, except one of them. One of them shoots out super-pointy rods. When the teacher scolds him, he leaves this last apple as a peace offering, thus killing his teacher. The only good thing to say about this short is that Jack Powell, who played the boy, is really good in the role. Unlike many child actors, Powell seems to understand what being a kid really means. Everything else about this short blows. It’s another silent movie, but this one has lousy music. Even the CGI apples are terrible. Pass.

BUM RUNNER
Directed by Kurt Christansen and Steve Herold
9 minutes
Rating: Pro

This is one of the best films in this collection. Too bad it’s not horror. It’s really, really funny, though. A couple of bums—a midget and a fat guy—rob from other bums and dream about the big score that would help them retire to Crackworld, where you can buy Crack Baby dolls and shirts that say I ♥ HEROIN, and where a giant syringe mascot dances around. They see another bum with a shopping cart full of empty cans and decide that this is their shot at the big time. There isn’t a weak link in this one. The writer, director, and actors are firing on all cylinders. This is a must-see.

MINDSLIME
Directed by Henry Weintraub
23 minutes
Rating: Pro

This is borderline horror, but like INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS, it squeaks in there. The protagonist of our story is a mechanic who, on his way home, sees a mysterious meteor come crashing down from space, a la THE BLOB. He investigates and gets possessed by a space insect who needs to feed on people’s brains. The creature then manipulates him into killing a bunch of people for their cranial goodies and even endangers his best friend and stripper girlfriend until he finds a way to possibly save himself, even if it will be a pyrrhic victory. The story of this one is just amazing, and it successfully walks the fence between horror and humor (a guy kills a woman with his cock, for example). Director Henry Weintraub is good at getting what he wants, visually speaking, except when it comes to the actors. No one is good or bad, they’re just so-so. Ben Chinburg, who voices the alien insect, tries too hard to sound like Rorschach from WATCHMEN. But the good completely outweighs the bad on this one, especially when it comes to the brilliant ending.

PIZZA TIME THEATRE
Directed by Jon Clark
5 minutes
Rating: Mixed

This, in no way, qualifies as horror. It’s more of a music video than anything, and it’s about a bunch of people who party at an arcade, featuring some pretty rad music from Maniac Mansion. It’s a catchy, Nintendo-ish tune, and it’s got a lot of great imagery. To anyone who has ever liked video games, you should check it out.

THE AMNESIA PARTY
Directed by Travis Campbell
18 minutes
Rating: Pro

This is another of the greatest films in this collection. Luckily, this time it definitely qualifies as horror. It’s the story of an American family and how 9/11 transforms them all. Before the Twin Towers came crashing down, the unnamed family of unnamed members were a keeping-up-with-the-Joneses type of family. Narrated by Son (played excellently by Josh Wagner), it tells of how Father becomes more and more paranoid while he duct tapes his windows and puts up security cameras all over his property, listening to the U.S. Secretary of Defense like he was a religious figure. Son also talks about how unbendingly patriotic Mom suddenly becomes, all while he tries to make sense of the world around him with the help of an invisible friend. Things get so crazy that Son enlists with the army to get away from his lunatic parents . . . and to say anymore than that would be criminal. The vision of this story is amazing. Director Travis Campbell puts his all into this production as he skewers just about everyone in this piece, from the religious to the politicians to your neighbors and your very parents. The only drawback is the stupid animated sequences. The cartoon is super lame, and while the stop animation stuff fares a bit better, it’s still nothing compared to the rest of the tale. The twist at the end is brilliant (and it explains a lot of earlier imagery). This one is definitely worth your time.

COLD FEET
Directed by Rob Baniewicz
4 minutes
Rating: Mixed

When we meet Harold, he is walking out of the forest with a shovel, having just murdered and buried his wife Suzie. Suddenly, her voice taunts him, telling him that he fucked up, that she’s still alive. He goes back to dig her up to make sure she’s dead, and then . . . director Rob Baniewicz commits the ultimate crime in fiction. The actors are good, and the story is nice up until the it-was-only-a-dream ending. Granted, it’s an awesome statement on marriage, but when it comes right down to it, there are no stakes, and that ruins the whole thing.

THE COURTESY NUDGE
Directed by Jacob Hair
6 minutes
Rating: Pro

A businessman is exposed to a strange chemical and starts growing weird spider legs out of his face that no one else seems to notice. He suffers in silence until he finally loses it and stabs his eyes out. However, the twist is . . . well, a spoiler, so just watch the movie. It’s only 6 minutes, and despite its bad CGI and mediocre acting, there are some good David Lynch-type images, and it’s funny as hell.

UNICORN
Directed by Richard Taylor and Zack Beins
6 minutes
Rating: Pro

This is another borderline horror film, but since the subject is pedophilia and incest, it’s nudged just enough into the horror arena to justify a peek. A little girl at a playground is being ignored by her very busy mother, and because of this, the mom doesn’t notice a pervert flasher approach her daughter. He shows her his dick, and she likes it, so they start having sex. Near the end of the film, it’s revealed that this scumbag is actually her father. Taylor, who also directed CANNIBAL GIRL AND INCEST BOY once again gives us a silent movie with a great soundtrack, but this time, the grainy picture actually works in his favor. It makes you feel dirty watching a man fuck a child. And don’t worry, the child is played by someone who is of-age, she’s just dressed like a kid. Still, it leaves you with a rather dirty feeling in your guts. It’s funny, it’s fucked up, and it’s worth watching.

P.S. I’M SPACEFACE
Directed by Husney
5 minutes
Rating: Pro

A guy goes to college only to meet his roommate, who wears a mysterious mask at all times. It’s one of the greatest awkward conversations of all time as Spaceface weirds the shit out of the new guy with his insistence that they sit close to each other and listen to
his stories about being on Montel Williams and being kidnapped. Really fucked-up stuff. And then, Spaceface takes his mask off . . . and hilarity ensues.If you’ve ever been forced to hang out with someone who simply doesn’t have enough common sense to at least try to seem normal, this will be one of the scariest movies you’ve ever seen. Wait until Spaceface talks about how his hair hurts before going into a bit about Bagel Bites, and you’ll see.

BLOODY V-DAY
Directed by Richard Taylor
3 minutes
Rating: Pro

A guy struggles to write a love letter to his girlfriend on Valentine’s Day. He gets a papercut and suddenly realizes that the perfect way to write this letter is in his own blood. But the cut doesn’t bleed for very long, so he starts damaging himself in such a ghastly fashion that it turns out to be hilarious. This is the third Taylor film in this collection, but it’s the first in which he acts. He’s not bad, if a bit ridiculous, especially as he cuts off his hand so he can write more. It’s hilarious and grotesque and over the top, just the way you like your Troma! [Incidentally, Taylor is also responsible for a short called JACK TO THE MAX, in which a compulsive masturbator’s penis gets tired of being beaten up all the time and leaves to see the world. It can be seen on SHAMELESS, TASTELESS, also from Troma.]

And that’s a wrap! Hopefully, we’ll get more Tromadance in the future, but for now, that’s all, folks!

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About John Bruni

John Bruni is the author of DONG OF FRANKENSTEIN (New Kink), POOR BASTARDS AND RICH FUCKS and TALES OF QUESTIONABLE TASTE (StrangeHouse) and STRIP (Riot Forge). His short work has appeared in anthologies like A HACKED-UP HOLIDAY MASSACRE (Pill Hill), ZOMBIE! ZOMBIE! BRAIN BANG! (StrangeHouse) and the critically acclaimed VILE THINGS (Comet). He edited STRANGE SEX 3 for StrangeHouse, and he was the editor and publisher of TABARD INN: TALES OF QUESTIONABLE TASTE. Find out more at www.talesofquestionabletaste.com and www.talesofunspeakabletaste.blogspot.com.
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