A Regular Joe

The Revelations of Filmmaker Joe Christ

The late Mike Wilson in Joe Christ's Sex, Blood & Mutilation

photograph by Amy Shapiro

Joe Christ, former Dallasite noise- maven turned underground filmmaker and one-man traveling hierarchy, is back with some new visual atrocities, and he's headed this way. That means it's time to hide the Baptists, break out that spare id you've been carrying around, and sit back, relax, and get ready for some cinematic nightmares the likes of which "Jack Violent" and his MPAA legions can only scream about. These days, the 40-year-old Christ splits his home time between New York City and Pennsylvania, where he lives with his wife, author Nancy A. Collins (Sunglasses After Dark). Marital bliss hasn't mellowed him any, though. The man who foisted such grimy classics as Acid Is Groovy Kill the Pigs and Speed Freaks With Guns is now touring behind his radical body-modification documentary Sex, Blood, and Mutilation and the self-explanatory Is It Snuff? You Decide! So much for the mellowing effects of age. Like a fine wine gone over to the dark side, Christ just keeps getting nastier. I caught up with the savior of underground gore by phone and grilled him about where he's been and where he's going. (And I don't mean to hell, either.)

Austin Chronicle: For those people who may not have been introduced to your work yet, why not talk a little bit about how you got into the whole film thing?

Joe Christ: Filmmaking had always been something I'd wanted to do, but hadn't had the means or any real access to it, initially. Around 1986-87, I was in a band in Dallas called Joe Christ and the Healing Faith, and our shows involved the theatrical use of animal parts from butcher shops, slaughterhouses, and so on. We had been shooting videos of the shows and eventually made a live videotape that ended up causing the rest of my band members to quit. They claimed that they never knew how visually offensive the shows were from their vantage point until they saw the videotapes from the audience's perspective, and so they quit and started a whole new band without me -- basically, they kicked me out.

At that same time, a guy I knew had a bunch of Super-8 equipment and was going to give it all to Goodwill, and he asked me if I'd like to take it off his hands. A camera, tripod, editing equipment, pretty much everything I needed to make a home movie. All I would have to go elsewhere for was the developing. So with all this equipment I made Communion in Room 410, which featured a big, heavy goth girl -- Mary Loehr -- cutting herself up with a razor while another woman -- Danny Wisdom -- participated by drinking glasses of her blood. And the next thing I knew, I had a movie. When that film got so much more attention than any band I'd ever been in, I figured I must be on to something. I actually lived off of Communion in Room 410 for about a year.

AC: What's with the name, Joe?

JC: I named myself Joe Christ right before I came to Dallas just to bug as many people as I could. I had a radio show on KNON, and every time I would say my name the phone lines would light up and people would freak out, and I thought, hey, I'm on to something again. For me at the time, it was a good move and a good stage name, and then I kept it because it became, you know, known.

AC: I'm sure you've heard hundreds of other people describe the films you do, but how would you describe them?

JC: How would I describe my films?

AC: Yeah.

JC: [laughing] "Fun, man, they're fun!" Basically, though, they're all a little bit different. I like to make movies that give the viewer not only a good time, but also a chance to see things they wouldn't see anywhere else. I've injected my personal sense of humor into all my movies, but like I said, they're all a little bit different. Acid Is Groovy Kill the Pigs I would describe as a comedy. Sex, Blood, and Mutilation, on the other hand, isn't a comedy, yet it still has a lot of my humor in it. The new movie is nothing like either of those two, it's a fake snuff movie, but there are jokes all the way through it. People would have to be pretty dense to think it was real.

AC: Aren't snuff films pretty much of an urban myth to begin with?

JC: Well, it started out as an urban myth, but then once it got around, people started making them for real. Basically the myth started out in the mid Seventies when there was that movie called Snuff by Roberta and Michael Finley. The footage in that film was totally bogus and, although they never even claimed that it was real, they were investigated and the film was shut down in a lot of cities.

And then, the controversy started about whether or not snuff films really existed, and that controversy generated enough interest to where, suddenly, real snuff films did start to exist. I saw one in 1982 or 1983 in Dallas, even before I lived there. I'd have to say that knowing the budget that there was no way the filmmakers spent the money on the special effects that made this particular film look real, you know. There was bodily dismemberment and just too much blood and gore for it to have been faked with the budget that was obviously being used on it, which was, you know, none. So I'm pretty certain that was real.

AC: Wow... On a lighter note, do you find that when you're on the road with your films, audience members are a bit taken aback by how "normal" you come across as in person? Do you find that people expect you to be some blood-spattered, drooling psychopath instead of Joe Christ -- Filmmaker?

JC: People with the more realistic sense of what's going on around them don't think I'm some sort of nutcase, no. They pretty much know I'm just doing what I do, and I'm very business-like about it, actually. The people that do act surprised; I'm usually a little bit skeptical of people like that. I think they may not have a very firm grasp of reality, you know? I don't do anything in the newspapers to make people think I'm a nutcase (other than make these movies), I don't try to say outrageous things to make people think I'm totally crazy or anything like that, really.

People do say to me, pretty often, "You're not nearly as weird as I thought you'd be," but then when they get to know me, it turns out that maybe I'm a lot stranger than they ever dreamed. But not in ways that affect my day-to-day life.

Joe Christ will screen his films Thursday, Oct. 16, 9pm, at the Back Room (2015 E. Riverside). Included will be Is It Snuff? You Decide!, Sex, Blood, and Mutilation, and others. Music performances by Frustrated Housewives and Mindscope. The Joe Christ website is http://www.taoweb.com/666/joec/

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