Everyone loves an underdog, especially in the the world of independent cinema. These dreams and aspirations are what fuel the hours of hard work and justify the overdrawn credit cards many filmmakers undertake to deliver their vision to us, the weary and jaded masses. Many fall short due to mediocrity, but not for a lack of trying. To shock and offend is something that our short attention spans as an audience no longer seems to allow. Vanquished are the creative explorations of storytelling, experimental narratives or unconventional character development. We seem to be marinating in our own filth, stewing in CGI blood, jump cuts, and seamlessly bad acting. And yet THE TAINT not only embraces these limitations with its budget and crew, they exceed in a way that makes one double take in the “What the fuuuu…” style commonly associated with foreign counterparts. Think more Tokyo Shock than Criterion Collection and you’re on the right track.
The Taint isn’t for your average movie-goer. Hell, I’m not quite sure who it’s for, probably people like me who enjoy really fucked up movies that would be rated X if that label still meant anything. I can say that I truly appreciate the efforts of the independent filmmaker, making chicken shit into chicken salad and you get a big sloppy helping of it with this film. Perfect for our Fast Food culture, it’s cheap, it’s dirty, and I know it’s bad for me, but damn, I want more like it. The premise is roughly that a couple of cellar dweller scientists have developed a chemical concoction called Cockzantium that theoretically gives men Mt. Olympus style boners that the ladies will swoon over. Unfortunately, this shaft increasing elixir turns men into blood thirsty killers that blaze a trail of destruction with their jism dripping love muscles. And fuck me running if this warped version of Viagra isn’t dropped into the water supply tainting and infecting all. This flick kept popping up on my movie radar like an enemy MIG, but my wing-man Cortez the Killer already had it in his sights. *cue Kenny Loggins’ Danger Zone* The film made it to #5 on his Kickass Films of 2010 and my fellow Keyboard Cowboy even rustled up an interview with writer/director/actor Drew Bolduc and his compadre/DP/co-director Dan Nelson over at Planet of Terror. Having obtained a screener, I put on my blood resistant Patrick Bateman raincoat and hit play on my remote.
What follows is the story of Phil O’Ginny, a plucky teen that embodies the lifestyle and appearance of Corey Worthington. He just wants to chase skirt and dodge gym class. Who can blame him when humanity goes to hell in a hand-basket balanced on a blood splattered trouser snake? He bumps into Gina who had to kill her own lover and together they quest for clean drinking water. Along their travels they run into Phil’s sadistic Gym Teacher who is now the leader of a marauding band of gang rapers. Envision Coach Schneider from NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET PT 2 and you get the creepy 80s vibe that carries over into his arc of the film. Soon we meet a Kabuki masked face ripper who tells our protagonists the back-story of how the shit hit the fan. And not to ruin the ending, but that’s pretty much about it. The Taint plays a lot like an 8-bit side-scroller where our hero is thrown into the action and must piece together the story by meeting new enemies, defeating them and then being told any relevant information after the carnage drips down the drain. There’s not much in the way of proper character development or even a cohesive narrative. But this isn’t gonna win some Indy Spirit Award, this is what low brow VHS box art used to promise from shelves of Mom & Pop Video Shops. This flick gains momentum by delivering more and more atrociousness for an audience that forgot it could continue to exist. Any exposition with the film is substituted with some of the most over the top and morally irredeemable collection of moving images I have been lucky enough to witness. This is cinematic punk rock, born of the the Troma spirit but more crystallized than anything Lloyd Kaufman could cook up. You’re offended and subjected to classic Grindhouse style brutality and absurdity unseen since Ed Koch was in office. I’ll go so far as to call this America’s answer to TOKYO GORE POLICE. The story lends itself to being misogynistic and homophobic on the surface, but all those that hold those beliefs in this film are viscerally slaughtered without mercy. Those ideals almost compete directly with the on screen violence to see which can offend more. It’s not so much tongue in cheek as it is double fisted middle fingers to the MPAA and society in general. I would find this message a bit more endearing if there wasn’t so many vanilla faces, but I could only image the casting calls that went out for this opus. It all plays out as if John Waters and Quentin Tarantino were film school roommates that decided skip class and make a movie.
The film wallows in late 70s, early 80s sensibilities, even to the soundtrack. It doesn’t seem so much like an homage to anything in particular as it more of an acid flashback gone horribly right. Music by El Zombie, David Zelman, and others make for a head-trip almost specifically reserved for the YouTube generation, this is the next entry of “Hipster Horror” a la MURDER PARTY or MIDNIGHT SKATER. I’m not saying that as a slight, it’s interesting to see any genre grow in new directions. There’s just no particular message to walk away with from the movie, except don’t be a dick with your dick. I’ll go so far as to paraphrase the metaphor that penises are like your opinion; It’s great that you have one, be careful when you share it in public, and don’t shove it down my throat. The film does offer a cornucopia of cinematic insanity, from cartoons of animal experimentation, to DIY abortions, to Nazi style propaganda films, to hairy men in sweaty short-shorts gyrating to a hair metal music montage. I still can’t figure which is scarier. You can’t doubt the level of love and commitment put into this project. The end credits read like only 5 people where involved in making the whole thing, but I doubt this vision would’ve been achieved with a higher level of involvement from more investors or studio backing. And yet they pulled it off anyhow.
The special effects sequences are a stand out in this feature, dripping more blood than King Kong’s tampon. It’s truly fascinating to see the mix of digital and practical effects on such a low budget. Employing Troma style tricks of dismemberment with new technology make for sequences that once would strain your corneas with how hard you rolled your eyes into some truly cringe worthy. A particular favorite is the car door head smash that is seen in the trailer. That’s proof positive that the best effects aren’t just given away. Now don’t go thinking this is the next generation of KNB effects. There’s more cheese here than a Kraft factory tour. But that’s the fun of it all, that something so over the top and gratuitous is so unrelenting. This is what became a pillar with Tokyo Shock films and now it’s refreshing to see someone else on American soil embrace that body horror aesthetic and gut-punching style of film making that I’ve only seen embodied previously by Frank Henenlotter.
The DVD features a Director’s Commentary with a lot of insight into the efforts of this low budget splatter fest. It’s interesting to hear Director Drew Bolduc wax philosophical with the DP and Co-Director Dan Nelson about shooting in, near, and all over Richmond, VA. They address the challenges of shooting on location, discussing their multiple roles in front of and behind the camera, why people like to get naked on film, and developing many of the special effects sequences that capture the hearts of true gore hounds. Cracking a beer as you watch it puts you in the same mindset that these guerrilla filmmakers have as they pause to reflect and suck the juice from the fruit of their labor.
You can also find more details from the movie’s Official Website. Click here to buy the film yourself. A spectacular deal offers the film’s soundtrack, movie poster, and THE TAINT on DVD and VHS for only $30!