Tuesday, May 3, 2011

The Super (2010)

Cleaning Up Everyone's Mess But His Own

I'm not sure if what Tarantino and Rodriguez did with Grindhouse was a good thing. The film was wholly entertaining and without it we wouldn't have great features like Machete and Hobo With a Shotgun. The problem is that the era of true grindhouse is gone; it was a "you had to be there" kind of thing. I was born in '83, so I definitely missed it. I managed to keep up with it through VHS and re-releases but I missed the physical experience of it. My question is: are films like The Super actually grindhouse films, solely because they use fat yellow fonts in the credits and filter in film grains and jumpy lines in post-production? Isn't that the opposite of grindhouse which was an unintentional style in its own? While The Super has its moments, these questions (amongst other problems) seemed to hinder my experience.

George Rossi (Demetri Kallas) is an immigrant who moved to America and fought in the Vietnam war. He's now the superintendent of a rundown New York City apartment complex where he resides with his wheelchair-bound wife, Maureen (Lynn Lowry, The Crazies) and their shy daughter. Maureen dreams of leaving their dump and moving uptown and insists that they could if George didn't let his tenants walk all over him. George insists that the tenants are good people and appears to be happy with their current situation, which leads to many heated arguments. And though he is protective of his tenants, they are in fact taking advantage of him with late rent and even crude insults. When a new couple moves into the building, George thinks they'll be a perfect fit; and they are until George starts pressuring them to get a Christmas tree (neither celebrate the holiday) which causes tension between them. When one of his more crude tenants believes George urinated in his sock drawer, he tries to rape him in the basement. George is saved by Olga (Manoush), a Russian dominatrix who lives in the building. She viciously tortures and murders the man, which pleases George. Soon, George decides to "clean out" the apartment but realizes he has no way to dispose of the bodies. Olga refers him to a crooked cop who charges a steep price for his services and doesn't seem very trustworthy to top it off. Soon, George's world is crumbling around him and the bloodbath begins.

The Super has a lot of potential. Unfortunately it chooses to focus more on violence and nudity than character development. We're meant to believe that George is driven to killing by his inability to handle the pressures of his tenants as well as the weight of his family and responsibilities. Regretfully, this is rarely tackled. Aside from a bar fight that starts because a young man insults George's Vietnam efforts, the film doesn't really play up George's sudden emotional detachment. When the film begins, he seems like a normal enough guy, but his breakdown comes out of nowhere. Suddenly, he's planning on killing a couple because they don't want a Christmas tree in their apartment? I warrant a bit more of plot structure if I'm going to care about a lead character who is a maniac.

For a film shot on a budget of $250,000, it's well cast. The acting isn't actually all that bad apart from a few over-actors and aside from Lynn Lowry, features modern b-movie babes like Ruby Larocca and Raine Brown. It's also filmed moderately well and has some pretty graphic moments, but the weakly developed plot and a fairly terrible final act cancels out the good.

As I said in the beginning, grindhouse was a style in its own. I find that trying to make a modern grindhouse film is a bit of a cheap way to garner an audience. Using digital filters to make your film appear more 70s can detract horror film buffs from the rest of the movie if you're not careful. If you want to be more grindhouse, make a low-budget film that shocks and awes without all of the modern day aid provided by the digital age. If you really want to amp it up, don't be afraid to add a good storyline. Leave the grindhouse style to those like Tarantino who will waste millions of dollars to make a film look forty years old. Low-budget is the new grindhouse, my dear indie filmmakers.

2/5 Stars

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