Big World Pictures // 2011 // 80 Minutes // Unrated
Reviewed by Judge Gordon Sullivan // July 13th, 2012
When the blood begins to flow, who will be left to scream...Dear God No!
Do you want to see a biker kick a (possibly dead) nun in the crotch? Do you want to see it in a kind of pseudo-Seventies grainy/damaged film style? If so, then Dear God No! is for you. Really, that's all the review this film needs (and some might say deserves). If you want to see bikers behaving badly and a mashup of Seventies exploitation tropes, then Dear God No! delivers. It's not an experience everyone will enjoy, but for aficionados, it's perfect.
A biker gang led by Jett (Jett Bryant, making his film debut) goes from one horror show to another, starting with the massacre of a group of nuns and culminating in the lair of a mad scientist, taking on numerous exploitation genres along the way.
In his column Resonant Frequency, Mark Richardson made the point that a kind of Tumblr-ization of music is occurring in the twentieth century. Rather than building on the style of other bands or trying to create their own spin on old trends, some bands today are essentially "reblogging" the work of others and claiming it as part of their identity. Something similar seems to be happening with some filmmakers. Though some directors have always been known for their debts to genre filmmaking -- Quentin Tarantino comes to mind -- it was usually important for the director to make a unique statement with genre elements rather than simply remix them. So, a film like Kill Bill owes a lot to vintage kung-fu flicks, but it's also obviously a film that only Tarantino could make.
Which brings us to Dear God No!, which feels a lot like spending 70 minutes browsing an exploitation film Tumblr. There's a dash of nunsploitation, some Nazisploitation, a nod at Blaxploitation, the list goes on. It's almost as if Dear God No! is some kind of exploitation greatest hits collection as reimagined by James Bickert (who disappeared for ten years between his 2000 film Dumpster Baby and Dear God No!). That might be your thing. Bickert and company certainly nail a kind of sleazy, we-don't-care-what-the-neighbors-say kind of drunk exploitation vibe. And, there's a biker kicking a nun in the crotch. That's got to appeal to some people out there, especially those who perhaps just missed the exploitation golden age and grew up hearing stories of its glory.
For me, the true test of a film like this, one that owes so much to previous genres, is whether it stands up on its own or merely reminds you of those older, better films. I don't think Dear God No! passes that test. I'd be all for an exploitation homage that tackled one or two of the major exploitation genres -- like a Nazi biker flick, or a Blaxploitation/nunsploitation mashup -- but this everything-but-the-kitchen sink vibe just doesn't do it for me. Because the film has to get through so many genres in such a short time (about 80 minutes), it's reduced to generic shorthand, showing us easily understood scenes to convey the genre and mood. That basically reduces the film to borrowing ideas from other films. However, the film gives viewers no good reason to watch the recreation instead of just going and watching an authentic grindhouse film. Maybe Dear God No! would make an excellent crash course in exploitation genres, but it doesn't make for inspiring viewing.
Whatever my feelings about the film, though, Dear God No! gets a decent DVD release. The 1.78:1 anamorphic transfer has that gritty, exploitation Seventies for the most part, complete with fake scratches. The transfer does this aesthetic justice, though at times everything can look a bit digital (even though it was shot on Super 16mm). Colors are pretty well-saturated, black levels alright, and digital artefacts almost nonexistent. The stereo audio keeps the fairly minimal dialogue audible and well-balanced with other sounds.
The disc gets three commentary tracks. One features the director and composer, another several of the actors (including Jett), and the third includes Bickert calling his actors to share stories about the film. Between the three commentaries, we learn quite a bit about the making of the film (as well as the fact that Bickert was struggling with his fear of fatherhood, which he claims is reflected in all the dialogue), though there is some overlap. There are also a behind-the-scenes featurette, a pair of promos, a video log of the premiere, and a slideshow. Even a red-band trailer is included.
In case the "a nun gets kicked in the crotch by a biker in the first scene" didn't tip you off, this isn't not a film for those with weak stomachs. At one point, the bikers perform an abortion and we watch them pull the fetus out of a woman. It's that kind of film. If you've made it this far, it should be obvious if you need to avoid this one.
Dear God No! is very much riding the current wave of exploitation nostalgia. For fans of the more extreme end of this trend, Dear God No! delivers the goods. For those with a less-hearty appetite for the horrors of our exploitation past, Dear God No! might go a bit far. In either case, the most likely outcome for most viewers will be a desire to put on an actual exploitation film instead.
Guilty of throwing too much grindhouse into blender.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Big World Pictures
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 80 Minutes
Release Year: 2011
MPAA Rating: Unrated
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