Judge Gordon Sullivan's going to dine on tofurkey this Thanksgiving. Honest.
Gobble, Gobble, Motherf#%@er!
The year 2011 was not a banner one for Netflix. Their price increases and name-changing shenanigans lost them a lot of credibility. However, for all their PR screw ups, we should all remember just how much they've done to change the media landscape. As recently as a few years ago, an independent film—even a self-financed one—had little chance of being seen outside a small group. Even if the filmmakers could convince a company to bank money on printing up VHS or DVD copies, the physical distribution of independent media has often been so-so at best. Then, Netflix came along and made streaming media a reality for millions of viewers. Suddenly online distribution was a reality for independent filmmakers, and those who produced low-budget features could see their films on the same virtual shelves as Hollywood's A-list product. Also, because streaming is like a buffet, viewers are willing to sample things they might not otherwise because they don't stand to lose anything but time.
That's how I was introduced to ThanksKilling. A group of friends and I sat down to watch some arty film (I forget which one), but technical problems prevented us. Netflix streaming came to the rescue, and ThanksKilling was our choice. It was the perfect film for a group of guys with a few beers in them. For the next 66 minutes, we were a rapt audience, laughing at the jokes, shaking our heads at the unbelievable lengths the filmmakers were willing to go to earn those laughs.
In some ways there's nothing special about ThanksKilling—it's a typical slasher-style creature-feature where a group of college kids are menaced by a holiday themed killer who spouts one liners. However, ThanksKilling knows how to tickle the low-budget funny bone in particularly effective ways:
• It doesn't overstay its welcome. Too many indie features think that 90 minutes is gold and anything less will leave the audience feeling cheated. So, we get padded first and second acts as each character and situation is given an excruciatingly detailed motivation. Then the third act ramps things up with killings, etc. ThanksKilling doesn't mess around. It knows that its characters are stock types and what we really want to see is death, nudity, and a one-liner-spouting killer turkey. So the film gets in and out in a little over an hour with no wasted time and offers its kills/nudity/one liners at a regular pace.
• It rides the line between self-aware and obnoxious. Too many indie films play the game of "We know we're bad so let's point it out" and hope that the audience will enjoy laughing with instead of at. ThanksKilling knows it's bad, knows that it's about a revenge-bent turkey, and doesn't hide the fact that it's cheap ("Made for $3,500" the box proudly tells us). However, despite the fact that the film revels in its low-budget nature, the film is played surprisingly straight. Sure Turkie looks at the camera before giving a goofy line, but he's inviting us in rather than rubbing our noses into the fact that the film is ridiculous.
• There's some serious bang for the buck. Although the film was made on the cheap, the filmmakers got enough people interested to have enough gore and nudity to please genre fans. Too often indie features can't muster the cash to produce good gore and/or convince people to get naked. Not so with ThanksKilling, which gives the film a bit of a leg up in the budget department.
• The film knows its audience. More importantly, it knows that the audience wants to be surprised by how far the film is willing to go. I don't want to give any of the more outrageous moments away, but this is a film that isn't afraid to break a few taboos in its search for yuks.
• Finally, the film gets a pretty solid treatment on DVD. The film was shot on digital video with a low, low budget, so this isn't a pristine presentation. However, blacks were pretty consistent, detail is okay, and color saturation is surprisingly good. The 5.1 audio is overkill, but dialogue is clear and well balanced with the turkey/Turkie effects. The film's main extra is an audio commentary with co-writers Kevin Stewart and Jordan Downey (who also directed). They share a quickly paced overview of the film's history and the usual litany of low-budget filmmaking horrors. We also get a short blooper reel and some photo galleries.
There is nothing at all socially redeemable about ThanksKilling. It features graphic violence, nudity, and awful, awful puns. Only fans of really bad low-budget movies need worry about ThanksKilling.
ThanksKilling gets the "fowl" treatment on DVD it deserves. The film itself is a campy low-budget horror flick that gets in and out in little over an hour, delivering the goods all the while. The extras are a little slight, but overall, this disc should please genre fans.
So I don't get stuffed, I'm calling this one not guilty.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: MVD Visual
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