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January 11, 2011

Troma-tized

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There's Nothing Out There
Rolfe Kanefsky - 1990

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The Chainsaw Sally Show
Jimmyo Burril - 2010
both Troma Entertainment Region 1 DVD

While I have seen a few films from the Troma Team over the years, I have to admit that there are only a very few that I really liked. Also, I am not part of the audience that usually watch Troma films. Most of their films are for a much younger audience, for whom Tobe Hooper's The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is considered an old school classic. Still, I laughed at parts of Tromeo and Juliet and Toxic Avenger, so I'm not entirely an old fogey, but at the same time, I regard the best part of Hell Comes to Frogtown to begin and end with the title. I will also have to hand it to Lloyd Kaufman for finding a niche and keeping at it for over thirty years when other companies have come, gone, or been gobbled up by larger corporations.

The story behind There's Nothing Out There is more interesting than the actual film. Not too many twenty year olds make a feature film, especially one with special effects. Rolfe Kanefsky's film never got anything resembling a decent theatrical release, finding a small measure of success on video and cable. The film is about some very mature looking high school kids who spend the weekend at the country cottage of one of the kids, only to be picked off by some alien creature. There's some soft core sex, nudity, spatter, slime and gore. One of the boys is considered to be one of the earliest examples of the on screen character who compares discusses what is happening within the film with other horror movies. If you want to see a truly funny and scary example of this kind of film, of kids in a cabin, film references, and the unstoppable horror that awaits them, then let me recommend Dead Snow. Zombie nazis are scarier than a less than bright space creature with teeth and tentacles, and the death metal in Dead Snow out rocks the lame music in There's Nothing Out There.

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Kanefsky's own story makes the DVD extras worth watching. With a stationary camera pointed at him, Kanefsky tells not only about the history of making and trying to sell There's Nothing Out There, but also about his own professional life since his feature debut. Seeing Kanefsky, sitting on the edge of his bed, in a studio apartment in North Hollywood, should possibly be mandatory viewing for all would-be students who go to film school with dreams of being the next Michael Bay or even a Kelly Reichardt. Kanefsky has been knocking around for twenty years, and has been working fairly steadily during that time, and lives quite modestly. His life is not the kind one hears about when discussing professional filmmakers. This is the Hollywood that usually isn't discussed, of remaining both in the game and in the margins.

I have to wonder what Carol J. Clover would make of Chainsaw Sally. The DVD set is made from webcast videos about a young woman who works as a librarian by day, who kills and maims various victims during her free time. One of the first images is of this young woman, chainsaw in hand, chasing another young woman. There's an audience for this show that is post-feminist and post-punk, far younger than me, whom finds delight in this grand guignol series. The show is a family affair, written and directed by Jimmyo Burril, and starring wife April Monique Burril, with Lilly Burril in a supporting role. I admit to having belly laughs watching Peter Jackson's early films like Dead Alive, when nothing about the tasteless mayhem suggested the work of a future Oscar winner. Maybe Chainsaw Sally works better on a small screen in small doses. My own preference is for Sally the librarian, someone with a passion for books and coffee.

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Posted by peter at January 11, 2011 08:33 AM

Comments

Hi, just wanted to mention that, as you like Dead Snow, you might want to try Cold Prey (Fritt Vilt). A far superior (or rather, straight horror) take on the icebound "kids in a cabin" IMO. Also the sequel is pretty good too. Which is a refreshing change! HTH :)

Posted by: Tudor at January 21, 2011 10:36 AM