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Fantasia Film Festival Reviews: 'Return To Nuke 'Em High Vol. 1,' 'Antisocial' & 'Discopath'

Reviews
by Gabe Toro
August 20, 2013 8:05 PM
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Return To Nuke ‘Em High Vol.1” begins with narration that establishes the latest Troma effort as a sequel as well as a remake, showcasing the madcap lunacy of the unhinged first picture while tipping a cap to its sequels. The explanation now, which sort of renders the title irrelevant, revolves around a high school contaminated not by nuclear power, but by over-processed junk food, showing that Troma’s transgressive-but-progressive spirit still lives in the twenty first century. This is all covered by narration provided by Stan Lee, who has no involvement in the production or the story, and whom introduces the film with glowing-green radioactive eyes. If you can get past the arbitrariness of such a gesture, then you’re probably not a Troma rookie.

The picture retraces the plot of the first film with minor rejiggering, centered on a group of restless teens looking for sex and drugs, and not always in that order. There’s something rotten in the air, and it manifests in grotesque mutations and dismemberments, but each isolated incident only results in shrugs from the administration, which is already in league with the conglomerate that produces this dangerous food, who already take their orders from President Obama (here played by Lemmy from Motorhead, with no makeup or costume). The one major change is an origin for The Cretins, a group of punk teens from the original who used to be the school’s honor roll. Here, in a flimsy stab at topicality, they’re actually the mutated members of the school’s obnoxious glee club, and when they transform, they continue to belt out public-domain hits a capella. The first time they burst into song, it’s not particularly funny, and less so the second time. By the fifth, it's infectious; their persistence becomes admirable.

By the usual standards of Troma films, this is typical in that it’s barely a movie, and the non-stop vulgarity becomes an ordeal by the hour point. But the picture isn’t plotted with story beats, only shock moments: what to make of the sequence when a lesbian’s irradiated penis devours a man’s heart? The blanks are filled by one-liners regarding school shootings and George Zimmerman, funny not because of their wit but their audacity. Disapprovingly, “Return To Nuke ‘Em High Vol. 1” ends on a random cliffhanger, stranding a spirited cast of game amateurs in limbo while Troma tries to stretch a dollar beyond the breaking point. If they could put it in 3D to charge extra, they would, but it isn’t certain if the studio or the theaters would have to provide barf bags. [C]

Yes, young horror filmmakers, you can’t hide the fact that you’ve seen “The Evil Dead” and “The Crazies” dozens of times, but seem to have skipped last year’s “Cabin In The Woods” which crudely and cruelly revealed those types of pictures for their superficial failures in a contemporary context. There are two movies inside “Antisocial,” but one is highly indebted to those aforementioned horror classics, and it overwhelms the exciting potential of the others, making this yet another film where pretty young things hack and slash into each other as a defense mechanism.

These Canadian youths are celebrating New Years Eve, but while they pre-party, it seems as if their online profiles on popular website The Social Redroom are having their own active lives, even if some of these online avatars are experiencing heartbreak. But once these college buddies isolate themselves indoors to start the festivities, the outside world explodes into an avalanche of violence, innocent people becoming braindead zombies clawing at the nearest person. Somehow The Social Redroom is involved, but these techie types are so ensconced in their online worlds that they don’t seem to realize the constant, gruesome updates by friends on the site might be tied to the site itself. Nevertheless, tuning into the televised news seems like an eleventh hour decision, as these attractive partygoers grab ironclad clues from a single online video without anyone asking if the gruesome content therein is anything other than gospel.

The revelation of where this airborne virus emerges addresses some genuinely relevant and spooky questions about capitalist technology and cult-ish mind control. But it’s far too late in the narrative to shift direction from another stalk-and-slash, one that seems reverse engineered to produce an ending shot with a hero pose and a sequel promise. “Antisocial” inevitably damns all technology, a Luddite fantasy that can’t get out of its own way to make superior points to the run of thrillers made at the start of the internet age. By the time the black guy becomes the first one to die, you begin to think it’s in the spirit of a throwback, in all the worst ways. [D+]

Who are movies like “Discopath” made for? This serial killer thriller, which follows a murderer in seventies and eighties era New York and Montreal, immediately strikes one as perfect midnight movie fodder. The dubbing is poor, the production values are worthy of porn, the performances are arch and ironic and the disco is pervasive. But to what end? This is the type of movie that used to be made all the time, by quick-change artists capitalizing on a couple of random trends. But at least there was a genuine sleaze element at work, and the idea that there was a genuine approach and vision that emerged from a generic incompetence with cameras, framing and effects. Now, it’s just an intentional throwback, wrapping everything in intentional artifice to preserve something that was appealing for being primitive and not particularly thought-out. You can’t go home again.

Pitched somewhere between “Boogie Nights” and “Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer,” the narrative begins in Brooklyn, where a group of Canadian actors gamely tries for Bensonhurst accents to create a community where disco and sex rules all. One such hustler slaves away at a restaurant job when suddenly it all clicks, and the sound of disco sends him into a murderous rage. A couple of corpses later, and he’s on his way to Montreal, setting up a torture dungeon for select victims while sitting disembodied heads on top of turntables.

“Discopath” feels like an attempt to replicate a latter-era giallo, with its lack of rationalization of the villain’s motives, the gratuitous sex and nudity, and the often comically-inept police work. Some of this lends itself to easy laughs, and it seems like there should be credit given to uncertain intentions; keeping the audience uneasy is more valuable than simply giving them what they want. But by the time the moribund, mostly-silent killer is disguised as a cackling nun by the third act, it reveals the earlier true-crime tactics of the picture that established him as a sullen, diseased slasher was, like most of the film, a put-on. [D-]


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