Spike & Mike's Sick & Twisted Festival of Animation ’97
1997, NR, 92 min. Directed by Various.
REVIEWED By Russell Smith, Fri., Jan. 24, 1997
Many of the animators in this latest version of the infamous Sick & Twisted animation anthology thank their parents in their films’ closing credits. And don’t you know those moms and dads are mighty proud of having given their kids the financial wherewithal to learn how to faithfully reproduce the aqueous squelching noises of a man extracting yardlong ropes of snot from his nose? As always with the S&T show, there’s a twofold response to the head-spinning grossness of the artistry on display. First and constant is the grim struggle to hold down your gorge in the face of images that include (but are hardly limited to) disembowlings, dismemberings, coprophagy, self-mutilation, exploding skulls, and massive ejaculating penises. All major bodily excretions, and the orifices that produce them, are represented here. The second response is genuine awe at the technical prowess of the roughly 20 artists who use processes ranging from stop-motion photography to digital rendering to traditional cel animation. Most of these animators - including Bill Plympton, whose amiably gruesome “How to Make Love to a Woman” is one of the show’s highlights - also produce less in-your-face work, and simply use Sick & Twisted as a playground for their unruly ids. Although this show struck me as even cruder and more puerile than past editions (admittedly a tough call), it also has its share of real wit, style, and invention. Don Hertzfeld’s “Ah, L’Amour!” is a hilarious, if viciously misogynistic, take on the anatomy of love. T. Reed Norton’s “The Lizard Whomper” features amazing claymation reptiles that deserve a cult following equal to those Budweiser frogs. And “Tie-Dyed Dick Featuring Rick the Dick” hilariously lampoons neo-hippie alternative culture (“Why don’t you losers get your own generation?” a disgusted Rick asks a meadow full of twentyish Deadheads). Unfortunately, there are several films here that simply aren’t worthy of the respected Spike & Mike nameplate. For example, Kevin Kaliher’s “Home Honey, I’m High” is banal stoner humor based on a stale sight gag of vaguely Jetsons-esque suburbanites sucking on bongs and blunts. A few other films are technically crude in a way that suggests plain old lack of talent more than studied primitiveness. As always, the candid labeling of Sick & Twisted assures a receptive, self-selected audience that knows what to expect and is unlikely to be offended by anything it sees here. In its own way, this is a pretty sophisticated audience that recognizes standards of artistic merit, if not taste. It deserves more attention to quality control than the folks at Spike and Mike have shown with this collection.