[1 April 2008]
PopMatters Contributing Editor
As a director, he continues to grow. He style has stayed basically the same, yet he still finds new ways to incorporate inventive ideas and social satire into the madcap mix. As a writer, his work has become polished and professional. Gone (well…almost) are the rude rants, the sexually explicit diatribes meant to shock as much as satisfy. In their place is a considered concentration on character, a desire to explore more mature aspects of humor while never quite leaving the confines of filth. Yet perhaps the most amazing thing about Low Budget Productions guru Chris Seaver and his 16 years of independent moviemaking is his consistency. Few if any mainstream auteurs have the track record that he’s developed, from his earliest experiments to his latest - and some may argue, greatest - work of genius.
In this second part of a two day overview, we will look at Seaver’s latest unreleased epics, including a John Woo style shoot ‘em up featuring everyone’s favorite amorous monkey, and an homage to Michael J. Fox, winter sports, and genealogical shape shifting. Both efforts confirm that Seaver is one of the few filmmakers who can successfully mine their past while preparing the way for their soon to be famous future. It’s also clear that nearly two decades behind the lens has left him capable of creating the kind of cult camp classic that will have generations jonesing for more.Wet Heat
When Teenape is tapped for being a pedophilic perv, the government gives him an option. The President of Entertainment has been kidnapped by a crazy drag queen wannabe Rocky Horror fame whore, and it’s up to our groovy gorilla to rescue him. Of course, he’ll have some help, and meet a few “Escape from…” style characters along the way. One thing’s for sure - guns and monkey nuts will be blazin’.
For all his love of gore, Chris Seaver has never been a student of violence. The only film in his oeuvre to touch the Tarantino-esque trend still skirting the edges of modern cinema was an actual spoof of said video store savant - a brazen bite at Kill Bill called Mulva 2: Kill TeenApe. But Wet Heat changes all that. It’s a magnificent maelstrom of anarchic ammo goodness, a baffling bullet ballet with CGI blood spray for added action. Clearly influenced by the growing collection of over the touch gunplay grooves - Crank, Smokin’ Aces, old spy flicks, any number of Hong Kong titles - there is also a tasty throwback feel to the mid ‘80s, a time that’s very close to Seaver. Considering he was born at the end of the Me Decade, these films formed the foundation of his very aesthetic. But while others strive to emulate their heroes, this director is out to demolish them. Indeed, he takes the parts he likes and links them together with his own loony LBP universe and spawns something spastically special. In fact, it’s one of the many elements that make his movies so madcap and magical.
Again, the acting is excellent here, with standouts like Meredith Host as Scooter, affecting a perfect ambiguously asexual mercenary persona. There’s a wonderful sequence in which our main villain, the appropriately named LaFemme LaDouche taunts the President in an almost flawless Frankenfurter frenzy. Billy Gaeberina is stellar in the role. There are in-jokes a plenty, lots of scatological slams, and just enough whimsy to make you wonder where Seaver gets his ideas. By the time we reach the finale, where forces of good and evil are ready to face off in one final hail of Smith and Wesson wildness, Wet Heat‘s promise definitely pays off. This is another notch in Seaver’s sizable belt, a literal blast that strives to be more than your standard fart jokes and toilet takes. As part of his amazing maturation, we recognize the casting off of certain cinematic crutches. While continuing to embrace his love of pop culture, Seaver is surveying his career, and making the moves necessary to increase his production profile.
When Scotty Bateman visits his reclusive Uncle Billy at the family ski resort, he learns two awful truths. First, a lowlife rich prick named Ralston Zabka is trying to buy the place. Apparently, profits are low and the park is going under. Even worse, there is an unusual Bateman curse. Seems the males become werewolves under pressure. When Zabka puts the screws to his relative, Scotty responds…as a slopes-slaloming lycanthrope!
Here it is - Chris Seaver’s great leap into masterful mainstream comedy. Copping as many moves as he can from the entire Greed Decade dynamic of high school/college competition hilarity, and working in a few familiar LBP riffs along the way, Ski Wolf is a wicked, watershed moment. It’s every lowbrow high concept crapfest Hollywood ever hocked up spun into a sputum snow cone and served slushy. Featuring a fantastic cast including Trent Hagga, Billy Gaberina, Casey Bowker and porn princess Alix Lakehurst, Seaver savors every single second of this effort’s outsized scope. He uses the wonderful Rochester, NY location to its very best, and gets the most out of his crazy company of like minded miscreants. Those worried that somehow catering to the mediocrity demanding masses would blunt Seaver’s sex and scum based satire needn’t fret. He’s just as foul, albeit in a familiar, Farrelly Brothers manner. There are situations and circumstances that recall the best - and sometimes, the wanton worst - of the already DOA genre. Truth be told, if anyone could resuscitate that kind of crude humor, it would be Seaver. Thankfully, he appears to have bigger funny business fish to fry.
All the ‘80s beats are present and accounted for - the horndog histrionics, the cheese ball musical moments, the random nudity, the occasional lapses into gross out gagging - and thanks to the talent involved, it all works wonderfully. Special mention also needs to go to Casey Bowker. For several years he’s been stuck inside Teenape’s mask, reduced to playing a groin-driven dastard with more spiel than Ron Popeil. Here, he actually gets to give two totally distinct performances. His Scotty is your typical awkward adolescent, face carrying a couple of youth tagging blemishes as part of the performance. Naturally, once the wolf appears, Bowker’s uncanny ability to channel old school seediness comes through loud and crystal clear. He is matched perfectly by Hagga, who seems permanently unable to break out into the bigs. He’s the kind of recognizable type - cad, crook, kook - who could find dozens of character roles in La-La Land. When you consider the source, and the troubles behind the camera, Ski Wolf shouldn’t be this glorious. It should deliver, but only in tiny trickles. Instead, Seaver solidifies his already ripe resume, arguing for his continued success in a business that has been blind to his talents for far too long.
Never one to rest on his lengthy laurels, the rest of 2008 looks to be a banner year for this tireless artist. What’s even more astonishing is that Seaver continues to create. A quick trip over to his website indicates the starting dates for two more films, as well as ideas for future projects. Not bad for a 30 year old who struggled in anonymity for years before DVD delivered his insane cinema to a wanting world. Even a change in personal status (he’s married, with a newborn baby) refuses to dampen his filmic fervor. And we can all thank the motion picture gods for that.