DVDanger: Officer Downe
Slipknot's Clown turns director, plus more home releases
By Richard Whittaker,
9:30PM, Sun. Apr. 9, 2017
There are gonzo comics to adapt into deliberately OTT B-movies, and then there is Officer Downe.
As a comic writer, Joe Casey has written for every big franchise and ever major U.S. comic player (Dark Horse, DC, Image, Marvel, Wildstorm) and under his nom de guerre Man of Action, he has been a guiding force in animated action series (Avengers Assemble, Generator Rex, and his defining work, the entire fricking Ben 10 universe). But even in his prolific career, 2010's lunatic miniseries Officer Downe is a ridiculous outlier of insane ultraviolence. Downe is a cop in a near-future LAPD. Every day he dies in pursuit of the law, every night he is resurrected by the department, and every day he goes back out again to be killed, because departmental policy says that's the best way to clean up the streets.
Adapting it for the big screen may seem an odd choice for the feature debut of Shawn Crahan (best known as percussionist, backing vocalist, and maniac-in-chief Clown from mega-selling metallers Slipknot). But he's working straight from Casey's script, so he's undoubtedly loyal to the material.
In this version, Downe is played by the lantern-jawed Kim Coates (best known as the hair-trigger Tig in Sons of Anarchy), and is ideal casting for the character, a mix of Axe Cop and Charles Bronson. He's been assigned a sidekick/handler, Gable (Tyler Ross, The Killing, the aborted Zombieland TV pilot) to keep him on track, and to pick up the parts for when the oft-eviscerated, regularly exploded Downe has to be glued back together.
It's exactly what you wouldn't expect from Crahan. Slipknot are full-bore heartbroken nihilism, and he has been the driver behind its ethos. He's also extremely serious about his art, such as his extreme outsider photography (as collected in the disturbingly beautiful The Apocalyptic Nightmare Journey). So for him to embrace Casey's oversized Day-Glo lunacy may seem like an odd choice, almost like he's blowing off steam.
And it almost works. Gangster nuns, combusting heads, crime lords in animal masks, characters objecting to being subtitled, tracksuit-clad ninjas, onscreen orgasm counters, narrative nods to every wimpy sidekick/unstoppable justice dispenser ever (most notably Hellboy and Robocop), elevator Muzak, and body parts by the bucketload.
It's probably the closest any U.S. director has come to the mania of classic Japanese splatter. It's just closer to the dispoable silliness of Noboru Iguchi (Dead Sushi, Robo Geisha, The Machine Girl), than the textured malice of Takashi Miike (Ichi the Killer) or Sion Sono (Tokyo Tribe).
Yet in the canon of American comic adaptations, it's definitely lower tier, akin more to the cheerful but flawed Nineties experiments like The Shadow and The Phantom than the modern blockbuster wave.
Officer Downe (Magnet) is on DVD and Blu-ray now. Also available on home release:
When a couple buys a video camera for a home movie, the term "amateur porn" is going to float through someone's head. Co-directors Nick McAnulty and Brian Allan Stewart make overt references to POV fetish with some of the cinematography in Capture Kill Release, but Jennifer and Farhang have far less romantic, if equally intimate, intentions. They plan to kill and dismember a random stranger for grins and giggles, and Jennifer has decided she wants to video the entire process.
There is the classic found-footage trope of having the cast play characters with their own names (Jennifer Frasier as Jennifer, and Farhang Ghajar as Farhang), but there is a good narrative reason, as it allows the filmmakers to edit in real childhood home movies. That's the gateway to revealing how much Jennifer is running the show, as Frasier hides her deranged plans behind the charming vivacity, and Farhang split between his own misguided love and his growing realization that he's sleeping with a maniac. The initial clues are subtle, like Jennifer being a little too much about the terminal velocity of cats, and Farhang being overly nervy about not being percieved as a bigot or sexual predator, and getting hung up on dismemberment details.
By keeping the action as an almost prosaic procedural, McAnulty and Stewart join some of the most superior recent underground found-footage horrors (Adam Mason's skincrawling Hangman, serial killer relationship black comedy The House With 100 Eyes, and Romanian genre violator Be My Cat: A Film for Anne) with hints of early mumblecore (seriously, there's a kinship of sorts with Uncle Kent-era Joe Swanberg, with its kinetic depiction of a relationship under duress).
The gore is sporadic but intense, but the greatest intensity is in watching an unbalanced mind. The found-footage veracity, with shades of real-life thrillseeker murderers like Leopold and Loeb, and Fernandez and Beck (known infamously as the Lonely Hearts Killers), raises some disturbing questions about how twisted love can truly get.
Slasher.com (ITN/Cinedigm) manages a feat previously unseen in horror cinema. It makes a spoon into a truly gross prop without ever being used as a weapon or murder device. That's pretty ingenious in the seemingly burned-out hillbilly-murder-farm genre, but for a slasher that comes off initially like a cheapo sleazefest, it's part of the suprising charm.
It seems like an easy setup. Jack Roper (Ben Kaplan) is on a first date with Kristy (Morgan Carter), who has proposed they head out into rural Missouri for an off-the-grid weekend away. Of course, her plan to spend some time getting to know each other horizontally gets a spanner in the works and a knife in the neck when they run afoul of some backwoods maniacs. But what exactly does this have to do with the big-city serial killer who has been murdering dates he picks up online?
Director Chip Gubera is a unique filmmaker, who followed up his luchador gore double bill of Academy of Doom and Mil Masacras vs. the Aztec Mummy with his documentary tribute to his tornado-stricken hometown, Joplin, Missouri. Here he throws together just enough of the conventions of C-grade horror, such as second tier icons (Return of the Living Dead's Jewel Shepard, and R.A. Mihailoff, aka the third Leatherface), ingenious gore, and full frontal nudity, to pull in investors and the pizza-and-beer Friday night audience.
It's far from perfect, not least some of the ugliest fight choreography you'll be subjected to this year. On the plot side, the opening setup is ignored for so much of the film that it actually tips the hand of the inevitable reveal – less so than if a few red herrings had been dropped among the trees.
Fortunately, Slasher.com has more than a few hidden razor blades sewn into its script's pages. After an hour of running, jumping, kidnapping, and stabbing, it suddenly comes off like a very dark and bloody episode of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia. That it sticks the landing on such a precarious pin head is the most entertaining aspect of this gory tongue-twister.