We're all zombies in the end.
Brian and Wade are roommates. Brian seems like a normal enough guy, but Wade is a human hemorrhoid constantly hanging around, irritating people. Brian likes to invite his fiancée Annie over for an occasional romantic interlude. Wade just wants to sit around and play Atari. When the couple gets together, the redolent roommate from hell wanders around asking illiterate questions and exposing his ample anal fissure to anyone within eyeshot. Such exhibitions of the posterior make Annie ill and Brian livid. One day, after a plan to get Wade out of the house turns…"fruity," Brian has had enough. He "accidentally" tosses a clock radio into the bath while Wade is wallowing around in it. One electrocution later, and the bottom brandisher is pushing up dirt balls. His hex hankering witch sister doesn't like seeing her brother interned, so she raises him from the dead to settle his scores. Wade is a weak zombie, however, and if it weren't for his enchanted ass, he'd have no affect on those who wronged him. One by one, they fall under the fatal spell of his charmed cheeks and before you know it, it's a minor zombie-a-thon. But Preacher Man Bob will have none of these ass-shenanigans. He wants Wade to go back to hell and to take his witch sister with him. While it's strange for a man of the cloth not to care, apparently Bob has no desire to indulge in this boy's Buttcrack.
Okay, admittedly, Buttcrack has a very funny title. It's just hard not to chuckle to yourself when you think about its connotations. It is a staple of American comedy—from Dan Aykroyd's scandalous refrigerator repairman on Saturday Night Live to what seems to be the weekly appearance of said slit just above Homer's rear beltline on The Simpsons. The first time we view Caleb Kreischer's flabby, white ass abyss in this so-so scary satire, we snicker. After all, it's a doughy dumper accented in putrid pimply pinkness, and director Jim Larsen does pay far too much loving attention to it as it gyrates and undulates. The first dozen times it's amusing in ever-diminishing amounts, but by the scene where loverboy Brian has to endure his fiancée Annie's tired tirade about Wade's rectal recess, we too have grown weary of incessantly hearing about some dude's derriere. Buttcrack is a one-joke jaunt through an unusual horror spoof/send-up where conventions and formulas are thwarted in hopes of creating a post-modern classic of crudeness. The problem here is with the energy and invention level of the film. Once it establishes its hinder hierarchy, Buttcrack can never move beyond it, not even when it introduces a wacky preacher character and over-the-top gore effects. It's as if, once hit upon, the notion of viewing a irritating tubby's tush trough was supposed to support the entire film.
But this movie hopes to be more than that. Buttcrack tries to be a living dead parody, but it is a zombie movie in desire only. Wade, our lead lardass comes back from the grave, reluctantly, to seek revenge on those who wronged him, complaining to his voodoo sister that he's really not all that mad about what happened to him. Now, the notion of a hesitant flesh eater, happier to forgive than cannibalize, is clever and could be the basis for a true terror comedy, one mixing gore with guffaws to produce an Evil Dead II type trip. Buttcrack can't figure out how to take advantage of this premise. Wade merely wanders into scenes, pants around his pelvis, and shoots a cursed quarter moon at everyone. They then turn into, well, they just turn into kind of make-up experiments, attempts by young talent to showcase their abilities with latex and blood bags for future portfolio fodder. Nothing is ever explained (only a compulsory "don't look at his buttcrack" remark is made to offer warning and insight) and as quickly as it begins, the corpse carnival is over. After 40 or so minutes of set up, we get five minutes of zombie zaniness and then it's back to the boredom. You can tell Larsen knows he is messing with the mindset of the average horror fan, understanding they want more body part pleasure, but he truncates the bloodletting before it starts to get good. It's too bad that he takes this strategy. Something like a mindless massacre would have helped to inject some life into this pondering proposition.
Another problem with Buttcrack is the lack of real talent collected to tell this tale. Mojo Nixon makes a convincing backwoods man of the cloth, hair in a heathen hump on his head and muttonchops threatening to overtake his entire face, but he is the only performer here to understand what is required. Doug Ciskowski plays Brian like he's semi-catatonic, barely able to register even the simplest emotion like sitting up straight. Kathy Wittes' Annie is all upset stomach and facial tics. She never seems to hold still long enough to register onscreen. And then there is Caleb "Buttcrack" Kreisher. You will either find him the best thing, or absolute worst aspect, of this film. Frankly, he is just flat out annoying, not because of the character he plays but how he plays it. Caleb is forcing everything here, from the aggravating gravel voice to the lame load dance moves. His constantly singing stooge is a caricature without a subtle section or an original personality. Perhaps it's not all his fault. The conventions of his character are obviously the result of the filmmaker's folly. Larsen shows very little creativity and his direction is hampered by a reliance on mostly medium and long shots. He has no compositional ideals: he just basically points and shoots, hoping the action is captured correctly. There is a small flair for physical shtick (the constant bashing of Wade in the head to hopefully re-kill him is sort of funny), but there is no narrative drive, menace, or shock value found in Buttcrack. This is a lackadaisical film presented in a very laconic style.
Troma is some kind of magnanimous manufacturer for films like this. Instead of simply putting Buttcrack out on some Artisan example bare bones bunkum, Lloyd and the boys go out of their way to make each DVD something special. Maybe they lavish so many extras on this film to make up for the unexciting transfer and muddled audio issues. The 1.33:1 transfer of Buttcrack gives the movie a lower budget look than it probably deserves. There is grain and some hint of compression. The colors are soft and there is a muddy feel to the movie, overall. Sonically, the film has some mixing issues. Occasionally the music drowns out the dialogue. Other times, the music is so soft that you can barely hear it. Fortunately, Troma offers a chance to isolate these songs (by producer/actress Cynthia Geary) on a separate menu item. It's worth a listen, as Geary has a keen pop sense and ear for beautiful, dramatic tunes. Sadly, there is no similar feature for Mojo's manic magic in the movie. We are stuck viewing and listening to interviews only. Mr. Nixon tends to ramble and fly off onto weird tangents, but his enthusiasm is convincing and catching. Featurettes like the premiere for the film at Studio 650 shows that some people actually cotton to the comedy here (the audience is shown busting a gut over the film) and additional features really hard sell this feature as a funny masterwork.
As for the commentaries, they are two sides of the same coin. You can tell Cynthia Geary was/is in radio/television. She has the smarmy, phony voice down to a slick spiel, and when she starts talking about Buttcrack, you'd swear she was about to sell you a time share, or tell you about the latest item to be featured on QVC. She has some interesting anecdotes to offer, but that anchorwoman in waiting voice takes a lot of getting used to. Director Larsen is on the opposite end of the vocal spectrum. Very soft-spoken and laid back, he still believes wholeheartedly in his film, but the manner in which he expresses this excitement is enough to bring on the big sleep. He finds no flaws in his film and feels his actors are either magnificent (Kreisher, Nixon) or worthy of sarcastic support (the lead lovers). Both offer insight into how the film was picked up by Troma, but truth be told, they need not have bothered. The title alone is enough to warrant inclusion in the Kaufman canon. Too bad this Buttcrack is all hot air with very little lasting aroma. It's kind of like that old bathroom stall graffiti: "Here I sit, lonely hearted. Came to watch Buttcrack, but it never farted."
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Scales of Justice
• Audio Commentary by Director Jim Larsen
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