Oh Canada! Is this what happens when we leave you alone in the frozen north with your crazy ideas and nothing but time?
Hobo With A Shotgun started life as an independently made trailer for a competition run in conjunction with the release of the Tarantino/Rodriguez Grindhouse picture. It won the competition and when, for that limited time, Grindhouse was shown as one film, the way it was intended, Hobo proudly appeared before it.
Then later, much like Machete, it was turned into a feature length flick, only this time the film makers got a budget and completely re-shot and re-cast it.
This is nothing new, The Coen Brothers, following a little in the steps of Sam Raimi, used a trailer to secure financing for their first feature, Blood Simple.
When I sat down to watch this, despite being fascinated with the whole Grindhouse debacle at the time, I didn't know any of that.
I wasn't living in America back then, I didn't know there was a competition and I hadn't seen the original trailer.
I learnt about Hobo from a friend of mine in the UK who is a big Rutger Hauer fan and a fan of films that are so dark, sick and twisted that they become hilarious, for example he is a big fan of, the quite similar movie, Street Trash which is about sick melting tramps.
I think the people who don't really get exploitation or horror don't understand that attached to the gory, violent imagery is often a fantastically creative imagination, a great sense of humour and that life affirming feeling you get to make through one of these in one piece. It's a safe and enjoyable way to have an endurance test of wills to prove to the world, well if we're honest, mostly your friends, that you're not a pussy.
Well if ever there was a film that took a great title, the money and decades of previous exploitation offerings and attempted to over-do, out-gross and push the boundaries of b-movies in the most underground comic book, intentionally sick & grimy way then it's Hobo with a Shotgun. It's like an early Peter Jackson movie meets Death Wish. A live action Meet The Feebles or Dead Alive (Braindead to us Brits) meets Straw Dogs or a caucasian Foxy Brown. If there was more camp comedy in it and thank Christ there isn't, it would be a lot like a Troma film too.
Firstly the film looks great, the whole thing painted in bright vivid tones and neon hues and looks far more like an 80s exploitation B-Movie than I expected. They have got the whole tone of the film pitch perfect with good music, great set decoration and interesting and bizarre camera lenses and angles.
Secondly, throughout the whole grotesque, bloody and visceral film Rutger Hauer doesn't put a foot wrong in the title role. It felt very much like they had properly focused on and written his part well so he had plenty to do and his performance didn't disappoint.
Lastly I think the film was chock full of good, funny and disgusting ideas and most of them were realised well.
Where it falls down for me was in the plot, the writing of the other characters and especially the villains.
You see the whole city is over-run with crime and degradation. On every street corner there is something repugnant, sleazy or violent happening and this controlled anarchy is all the doing of one man, seemingly the only citizen of this land who knows where the dry cleaners is, and his two arsehole sons. They have the town in their back pocket, completely bought and paid for.
Well that concept is fine enough, even if it does open up more questions than it answers (like why would you do anything these weedy and obnoxious ring pieces say anyway?) but I think it would have been of huge benefit to the film if the actors chosen to play these roles were genuinely terrifying, or at least menacing in a sort of Gary Busey type way. I mean the two sons are quite the most annoying pair of squeeky voiced, whining, sickening turds you've ever witnessed and while, obviously, that works in the film's favour because you side instantly with the Hobo, who is equally lacking in moral fibre if we're honest here, it doesn't help that they look like the sort of pair who could be over powered by a particularly pungent fart rather than leaders of a rain of terror. Plus I think with Hauer in the lead you'd side with the grizzled son of a bitch anyway, you don't need to amp up the annoying factor on your villains.
As for the lead baddie 'The Drake' well I am sorry but he's the real lame duck. He's about 70 if he's a day and a tennis ball to the face would probably disorientate him long enough for you to steal all his clothes and kick him into next Friday! With these kind of adversaries you'd think the Hobo would have the streets cleaned by dinner.
Alas this is not the case and this malevolent leprechaun has the chance to not only use the TV to turn regular folks, if there are such things in this hellish wasteland, against the hobo but also to summon The Plague, a pair of possibly robotic, possibly demonic bikers to come finish off him and his new found prostitute friend Abby.
This is actually where it all starts to get good again and the climax piles on atrocious and gleeful gore upon gore. It's also where all pretense of normalcy, or at least even movie logic, has well and truly flown out of the window, especially with the briefest, random and surreal appearance of a giant octopus.
Look I know that to poke holes in Hobo with a Shotgun for its non existent plot, its crappy villains and its lazy writing is completely missing the point but personally I think the strength of the best kind of B-Movie is their ability to tell the stories and ideas that you can't in A pictures, not just to see if we can push the boundaries of taste to ludicrous levels. Ok so, plot wise, there is some mumbled nonsense about the Hobo's desire to run off with Abby and run a lawn mowing company but that only goes to emphasise the ridiculousness of the situation. He rode in on the rails, why doesn't he just ride out again when he sees what the city is like and that there is no money to be made here? If there are places you can go where lawn mowing is a lovely peaceful occupation, why isn't he there?
I also think that films are cult films when they are good enough to gather a following over time and because there's something about them we haven't seen before, there's just a part of me inside that dislikes the fact that this film was so obviously made specifically to be like that, it feels cynically manufactured almost.
Then there is another part of me who tells that part of me to shut the fuck up and enjoy the magnificent splatter fest for what it is. After all it does exactly what it says on the tin and it features plenty of things we haven't seen before.
I have seen my fair share of horror and exploitation films and where most films would draw the line, in terms of what they'd show, this one seems to start. The opening death is the sort of thing another film might end with and if they did, they certainly wouldn't show it in all it's red drenched splendor.
I can't go into all the ridiculously hilarious and jaw-droppingly, delicious and twisted moments in this film for fear of spoiling it.
All I would say is that if your idea of amusing is an upside down human piñata being beaten silly by three giggling topless women, which is then split open from balls to chin, much to their glee and the scene ends with them happily dancing in the unfortunate man's innards then I would give this film a watch at least once.
Also, for you fans of all things Canuk, look out for a few cameos by famous Canadians, those wacky sick funsters.
7 out of 10 - donkey balls in a bap drizzled with pervy Santa's semen.
Points from The Wife - 5 out of 10.