There’s a lot of nut jobs making films…lots of em’. You know, the real envelope pushing, crazy people who’s films punch you in the stomach, then repeatedly kick you in the genitals right after that. What’s great about writer/director Ryan Nicholson is that after the crotch kicking, he farts in your face before he walks away. Since day one, this Canadian auteur’s flicks grabbed me by the short and curlies and demanded my attention. I got my first glimpse of his work when “Live Feed” dropped into the horror community’s lap a few years back. We were in a post-“Hostel” world, where gore was the king. Alexander Aja’s remake of “The Hills Have Eyes” had poured on a heavy dosage of red stuff and now the floodgates opened to any dickhole with a DV camera and a buddy with latex. Trouble with that is, not everyone is good at making gore effective. This is where Ryan Nicholson’s films entered my life. Several reputable magazines and websites were getting behind this flick and it was with good reason. Here was a guy who was not only making ORIGINAL horror films from ORIGINAL scripts, but he was going for the jugular in the visuals department. It wasn’t as if he’d even made the film to appeal to a mass audience at all! Believe me when I say, I definitely viewed this as a wonderful thing. Clearly, this guy was “one of us”. He made films as a fan and for the fans. I don’t mean your “I like horror films-like psychological thrillers” fans. I mean the real, Fulci-worshipping, Miike for President, out and out, psychotic horror fans. You know, those of us that giggle when entrails and limbs are being tossed about, to and fro. This was gonna be our guy…the guy that would take us into the new frontier. And guess what? He is. He’s got four, balls out, take no prisoners, fuck you to decency, sleazy, grindhouse-styled horror flicks that give the horror community what it should be looking for. Ryan Nicholson isn’t afraid of you. He’s not the slightest bit concerned with making sure you are comfortable and leave his film skipping hand in hand with your dearest. He puts all his wares out there and doesn’t even flinch. Nicholson is the filmmaker horror needs. His passion for the genre oozes out of every word of every scene that he shoots. Whether it’s the hilariously over the top, or the downright mean, Ryan’s work is (in my opinion) the purest of the current crop of filmmakers, when it comes to tried and true love for the roughest parts of the genre.
When I came up for air, it had occurred to me that not enough horror lovers had seen this guy’s work. That seemed almost criminal to me. So, I took in upon myself to contact Mr. Nicholson, badger him for some screeners to make sure I’ve seen EVERYTHING (so far), and decided to give you my synopsis of each film. Of course, I don’t expect you to just take my word for it. I expect you to absorb every single word, and purchase everything his company, Plotdigger Films has done, sight unseen. Yeah, I really think his films are that good. But be warned: I’m not writing this for you fairweather cats, I am making this suggestion to those of you who fancy yourselves as full-fledged gorehounds. If you’re a proper one, then you know of him and if you don’t…well, then shame on you!!! We absolutely have to get behind a filmmaker like this-he’s completely fearless and has no qualms about throwing sand in the face of film’s status quo. The rulebook goes out the window and things get ugly…just the way we all like it to be!!! So, please, read my mini reviews, then go out and buy these films and support a real horror filmmaker who isn’t afraid to push his own genre back into it’s better days.
Live Feed (2006): This is the one that put Ryan Nicholson’s name on the map as a director. The film follows a group of 5 young folks who’ve made their way to Asia for a chance at committing some acts of debauchery. Upon their arrival, a really stupid decision sees these young people fighting for their lives against a crime boss who’s got a pretty sick m.o. The group ends up in a movie theatre where the crime boss entertains his patrons with live acts of sadistic torture and violence. The events that follow lead to this group of people fighting for their lives against evils the likes of which they’ve never seen.
Live feed assaults the senses like a brick to the face. You find yourself immersed in a film that offers everything a gorehound could ever want: Decapitation, dismemberment, arterial spray, sexual depravity, badass kung fu, and lots of blood. It’s a film that revels in it’s chaos. There’s all forms of filth that one would hope to encounter in a film that brags about having the goods, and delivers on them. Upon its release, the film instantly started to gain notoriety based on the sheer audacity in which Nicholson made the film. With a strong, hardcore feel running through the movie, it became very clear that this guy is not going to be making some teen-friendly, PG-13 film anytime soon. Several scenes in the movie not only exceed the boundaries of acceptability, but forge through them and set a new standard for gore films. One part sexploitation one part Takashi Miike, Live Feed is almost a new textbook on the ways of the grindhouse. Nicholson and team spared no expense on making realistic effects that make you can’t help but wonder if there’s a bit of real life going on in there (there isn’t, of course. They are just that good.) as well. All in all, Live Feed was a great feature introduction to what was to come from this man.
Gutterballs (2008): Second in his feature releases, “Gutterballs” somehow exceeds what Nicholson did in Live Feed with a deviant sense of humor only the devil could love. The film takes place in a disco themed, bowl-a-rama where a violent rape leads to a messy showdown between rival bowling teams. Little do these oversexed miscreants know, they’re being stalked by a VERY unpleasant character who’s sole purpose is to bring each one of them to a very bloody demise. Donning a bowling bag for a mask, we witness our killer commit heinous acts of murder, while the tensions (both emotional and sexual) between the 2 teams mount into an explosive climax that only Plotdigger Films could concoct.
This film quickly found a place in my heart upon viewing. If you read my review of it, you got a pretty good idea of what we’re dealing with here. EVERYTHING in this film is over the top, from the gore, to the sex, to the asshole lead characters who’s deaths we all cheer on. I laughed out loud and I laughed hard at Gutterballs…and the cool thing is, I’m pretty sure I was laughing right along with the cast and crew of this pipe bomb of an exploitation flick. Ryan Nicholson’s ability to come up with insane death sequences in story form, is only outdone by the execution of this insanity. There’s a sick chaos to this film that brings to mind some of Lucio Fulci’s more explosive/misunderstood stuff, like “Cat on the Brain” or “The New York Ripper”-the difference here being, it’s done with a maniacal sense of humor that perhaps the king of Italy never quite succeeded at conveying on screen. While I could spend time making comparisons to great Italian horror, New York sleaze films, etc., the fact is that Gutterballs stands on its own two feet. It’s a potent mix of sex, gore, foul language, and insanity that would’ve made Andy Milligan tear up. A must see for you sleaze connoisseurs.
Hanger (2009): It almost seemed as if these guys had noooo more boundaries to dropkick through-then I saw the film, “Hanger”. Hanger is meeeeeaaaannn ass tale of a prostitute (played by one of my favorite actresses in all of indie cinema, Miss Debbie Rochon) who’s heart has hindered her work. See, Rose is pregnant and doesn’t want to give up the baby. Naturally, her pimp disagrees and decides to “take care” of things, old school. During this back alley, wire hanger abortion, Rose dies but that baby tossed into a dumpster, does NOT die. Instead, we meet that child 18 years later. He’s deformed, fucked up and leads us down a vicious trail of revenge. That trail proves to be a dead end for everyone involved in this seedy underworld that crosses his path and it leads to a climax that doesn’t leave you feeling great.
Make no mistakes, Hanger is not going to win over those folks who thought any previous Plotdigger release was too much. It’s heavy stuff…very abrasive and unforgiving. You aren’t going to watch Hanger and hope to gain an awakening on life’s inner mystery. Point blank: This flick is NOT going to beg you to fall in love with it. In fact, I don’t think it really gives a shit if you like it. It’s going to exist in that realm of gonzo flicks that will have a legacy 10 years from now. I’d imagine what “Cannibal Holocaust” or “Nekromantik” was to me, Hanger will be to my son. That’s a good feeling. I love that fact that this film exists. It’s reprehensible and vile and perfect. Nothing but amps on 10 for this one. The effects are AMAZING, as always. If you’re offended by coat hanger abortions, colostomy bag penetration (yeah, you read that right.), dicks scorched on stove burners, and several other implements of filth then this is the movie you’ve been dreaming of. If not, you just need to steer clear. It’s a kick in the nuts that the weak-stomached are not prepared for. But for you seasoned gore vets, seek this monstrous film out.
Torched (2004/2010): This is technically the first of Ryan Nicholson’s films, but is getting a sweet makeover this year, via DVD. We meet Deanna, a nurse who’s young, intelligent and on the fast track to success. All that comes to a screeching hault, when Deanna is brutalized in her own apartment building. Instead of becoming a victim, Deanna goes off the deep end and in her descent, pulls everyone down around her. She takes her supposed attacker captive in the hopes of getting her shot at everyone involved. From here, torturous outbursts lead to a cacophonous climax that leaves the viewer stunned, long after the film’s conclusion.
The rape/revenge is not a new film concept, but Ryan Nicholson’s visual attack on Torched manages to freshen up some well worn territory. If you were a fan of flicks like “I Spit on Your Grave”, or “Ms. 45”, then you’re going to automatically like this. Ironically, what seems to be the difference here is Nicholson’s amount of heart poured into this one. the usual suspects are here for one of his flicks: Fantastic gore and effects, lots of limitation-pushing scenes, but the big shocker is how much emotion is involved. You are drawn to how much Deanna is struggling with what happens to her but, still so captivated with how she handles the situation. It’s something that I could see as empowering to female audiences. Deanna didn’t allow her rape/assault to control her life-SHE took control of it. The victims, ultimately, are those who cross her path throughout the remainder of the film. So, as exploitation films go, the idea is inflated in a way that films often do, but to draw a comparison to reality is not hard. What if? What if all those who were victims of such heinous acts refused to see this as their defeat? What if they stood the fuck up and returned the misery their attackers inflicted upon them? Well, if Torched is any indication, their attackers would suffer a far greater fate than those they attack, and that would (hopefully) keep such attacks from happening. Until that day comes, we have films like Torched that allow us to have the satisfaction of seeing vile pigs suffer ( suffering that includes good ol’ penile removal, just like the Italians used to make!). Oddly, it feels really good to see it happening, too…
Look, I’m not going to sit here and write a piece like this about every single filmmaker that sends me screeners of their flicks. In fact, a lot of times, we get some shitty flicks that our writers have to ingest. That’s what makes Ryan Nicholson’s films so special-he’s, simply put, fearless. There’s is not an ounce of regret that comes off the screen from his movies. Quite the opposite: If anything, there’s a bit of high-fiving going on amongst the people at Plotdigger Films for a job well done, I’d guess. I sought him out to get copies of all of his films because I’d loved everything I’d seen up to that point. As of right now, I have yet to be disappointed by his films. They represent everything good about the grindhouse and they got me hook, line, and sinker. I’d venture as far as to say that several years down the road, we’re going to say Ryan Nicholson’s name when we say names like Ruggero Deodato, Lucio Fulci, and Lloyd Kaufman. don’t be surprised if he’s considered a unsung hero of exploitation and horror, spoken of in books, etc. When we talk about our generations fearless extremists, this is a name we’ll proudly scream as “the one that went all the way”. As long as Plotdigger Films is making films, I will support what they do. And as long as you consider yourself someone who likes it rough and messy, then please…I’m begging you, now…please, support the fine filmmaking of Ryan Nicholson and his merry band of perverts at Plotdigger Films. Consider it your horror geek duty…
Tags: Alexander Aja, Andy Milligan, Blood, Cannibal Holocaust, Cat on the Brain, Debbie Rochon, exploitation, Filth, Gore, Grindhouse, Gutterballs, Hanger, Horror, Hostel, I Spit On Your Grave, Live Feed, Lloyd Kaufman, Lucio Fulci, Ms. 45, murder, Nekromantik, Plotdigger Films, Ruggero Deodato, Ryan Nicholson, Sexploitation, Sleaze, Takashi Miike, The Hills Have Eyes, The New York Ripper, Torched