"It's been six years since I made my first movie with my high school friends. Maybe they want to make another one. I bought a better camera, and have plenty of liver and ground beef from the grocery store, so after work they probably could—okay, mom, I'll take out the garbage!"
Plot: Two hillbillies, making a living landscaping in suburbia, start killing people. The end.
Here we have another entry from Nathan Schiff, the filmmaker from Long Island specializing in zilch-budget gore. For those of you had just endured my review of Weasels Rip My Flesh, let me just end the suspense: They Don't Cut the Grass Anymore ain't much of an improvement. If you're holding hope that this film, being made six years later, would benefit from a more professional treatment, you're wrong.
So for the benefit of this review, I'm going to create a microcosm where the only films that exist in the world are these two Schiff productions (coincidentally, inhabitants of this microcosm live in a constant state of despair and misery).
They Don't Cut the Grass Anymore is far more "gorier" than its predecessor. However, even the term "gore" is nebulous. What's on-screen is gross and slimy and squishy and red, sure, but I am still reluctant (as we slip out of our faux-existence for a second) to qualify it as gore in comparison to other movies.
First, everything on display here is so low-budget and homemade that any sense of reality is immediately discarded. There's a scene where a girl has a firecracker rammed in her mouth, then it's cut to a crude, cardboard head—I'm talking worthless here—and BOOM. But big deal; the effects were so crummy the idea of an actual girl's head exploding is distant, and overrun by the absolute stupidity of the effect.
And then the lingering blood and guts shots—which Schiff opts for in lieu of plot progression or any coherent storyline—are simply a pair of hands rooting through raw meat and goop. It's certainly disgusting, but in the way watching a meat-cutter hack apart a piece of liver is disgusting. It's gross because goopy meat and slime is gross, not because we think an actual person is getting mutilated. Forget suspension of disbelief; from the opening sequence of some London broil being yanked off a plastic skull, the audience is so far out of the movie they may as well be in Madagascar.
Back to our forged microcosm. Compared to Weasels Rip My Flesh, They Don't Cut the Grass Anymore makes more sense visually. I was able to actually see what was going on, and the gore, while super-fake, was up-front and visible…perhaps too up-front and visible. Plus, Schiff chose a slightly better film stock to use and his hand doesn't shake as much holding the camera anymore.
As far as the narrative, however, They Don't Cut the Grass Anymore makes Weasels Rip My Flesh look like The Godfather Part 2. Obviously, Schiff and his cronies were just looking for an excuse to gore it up. Which wouldn't be so bad if the movie wasn't made with the loose change found underneath Schiff's sofa cushions. And at 70 minutes, They Don't Cut the Grass Anymore is Schiff's towering epic, clocking in at six minutes longer than "Weasels."
Image has crammed this disc with so much Schiff stuff you won't be able to breathe (or care). Schiff is interviewed again and, again, it's obvious he takes himself a little too seriously. His commentary is still not as self-deprecating as it should be, though he does reveal some interesting tidbits: his star, the legendary John Smihula, contributed to the five-day shooting timetable because he was heading off to the Peace Corps, and they kept a nonsensical subplot in the final cut simply to increase the runtime. For those craving more of Schiff's work, the disc includes some more film shorts, which stop just "short" of being remotely interesting.
Look, the guy has gusto, but please, Mr. Schiff, stop foisting your home movies on us, and find a budget. I'd anticipate what you could do with more money than what's currently in my wallet.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Image Entertainment
• Director's Commentary
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