He remains an enigma in a realm he more or less jumpstarted. Before the web gave every wannabe auteur an audience and a DIY distribution means of get their moviemaking message across, Chris Seaver was tearing spit up with a scrotal vengeance. Now, almost 20 years after introducing the outsider realm to TeenApe, Mr. Bonejack, Phil the Demon and The Karaoke Kid, the driving force behind Low Budget Pictures is offering his latest insane creations. One will seem very similar to lovers of a certain adolescent vampire romance. The other offers one of the most bizarre – and therefore wholly satisfying – experiments in the miscreant maverick’s years behind the lens.
If you’re looking for the Chris Seaver of old, the man who works in curse words and sexual innuendos the way Duff Goldman plays in pastry and proto-punk soul patch goofiness then look no further than Taintlight, his take on the Stephenie Meyer stupidity. You really do have to know the terrible movie version of Twilight (and in many ways, the equally offensive il-literary source material) to get where this sleaze-ball spoof is coming from. Seaver has incorporated as many of the meaningful beats as possible while mocking others his budget (the infamous near car crash) and aesthetic (vampire baseball?) won’t allow him to touch. At its core, Taintlight ridicules the endless love angle of Meyer’s manipulative teen angst trash while adding lots of the director’s patented scatology. The original is nothing more than a Harlequin romance retrofitted for Goth gals, spinsters, and cat ladies who don’t care about essential fiction elements like characterization, plotting, or depth.
For Seaver, none of this matters as well. Instead, he intends to use his Low Budget Pictures company to cash in on all the hopeless hysteria and hype. As his leads, Meredith Host is her dependable self as the rote romantic Stella. She gets the whole ‘lost in love’ aspect of Kristen Stewart’s somnambulist performance flawlessly. In many ways, she’s a better Bella because she’s not so inert and numb as her cinematic/storybook other. Even better is Kurt Indovina as Edgar. With his Eraserhead hairdo, tendency toward pouting, and hopelessly livered lips, he is the perfect object de amore/subject of relentless ridicule. In fact, all the vampires here are hopelessly inept, especially the clan of “evil” neckbiters highlighted by a hilarious turn from Jesse Green as main baddie Razor McBleed. Sure, Seaver digs deep into his pop culture kit to turn AJ Stabone’s werewolf into a Michael Jackson loving lycanthrope, but overall, the performances really pitch this material as a lovely lampoon.
Of course, one needs to remember that this is still an LBP production. There will be elements that remain underdeveloped and issues that come from Seaver’s lack of say in such a ‘hired gun’ gimmick laden production. Still, you can sense a filmmaker desperate to break free of the past, to avoid the repetition of his previous oeuvre and strive for something new (more on this in a moment). Instead, Taintlight acts like a buffer between old time lovers of Seaver’s retrofitted regression and those new to the whole Low Budget universe. For those without a Twilight clue, the film will be meaningless. It will play like a bunch of amateurs bumbling around making fun of a piece of pop culture desperation. But if you know the origins and ‘get’ what’s being burlesqued, you’ll truly enjoy the ride. Taintlight is not one of Seaver’s finest, but it can definitely sit alongside his often inspired misses.
On the other hand, I Spit Chew on Your Grave is a friggin’ masterpiece. It easily vaults to the top of the LBP pantheon, easily challenging classics like Mulva: Zombie Ass Kicker, Destruction Kings, Filthy McNasty, and the Heather and Puggly films for cinematic superiority. That Seaver has never done anything quite like this exercise in ersatz exploitation is proof that the man has major room to grow and expand his moviemaking mannerisms. The narrative offers a Labyrinth-inspired villain, Jareth, training his team of sexual assassins (Honey Lips, Love Juice, and Balls Deep – also known as the “Gash Nasties”) to seduce, rape, and murder rich men. He will then use the money to open a chain of naughty nightclubs where even more debaucherous business can take place. Standing in his way? Recent lottery winner Leo DeChamp. The bumpkin with a bundle seems like the perfect mark for Jareth’s wicked women, but this is one redneck who’s not about to part with his ill-gotten gambling gains.
In a perfect world, I Spit Chew on Your Grave would be heralded as the second coming of independent art. It would be acknowledged as both a loving tribute to the grindhouse conceit that so many have struggled to recreate as well as a loogie in the face of every lover of such old school sleaze. Seaver, allowing his fevered imagination to run rampant, claims to be riffing on the Joe Bob Briggs’ beloved exploitation excuse I Spit on Your Grave. But the truth is that this is a wholly original work, reminiscent of the titles of old while laying claim to its own unique vision of vice. Moving at a million miles a minute, Chew takes on everything from titillation to terrible stand-up comedy. It offers buxom babes but little lewdness, trading funny business for flesh time and time again, and just when you thought things couldn’t get any weirder, the director shows up as one of the most hideous, hilariously ugly characters in all of Bonejack Heights.
Certainly there will be some who bristle at the whole ‘sexual assault’ theme, even when it is aimed at the male members of the species, and true fans of Lewis, Freidman, and Novak, et al will notice the lack of nudity and scream ‘foul!” Still, as an example of filmmaking acumen, as an argument for Seaver as someone capable of something more than a genial home movie made for himself and his friends, I Spit Chew on Your Grave generates significant savant buzz. It believes in its crazy format, follows it through with effortless abandon, and offers performances wedged precariously between tacky and terrific. Even better, a fair amount of post-production tweaking has taken place, giving the entire movie the look and feel of a fornicating Four D Witch psyche-out! If you want to see where Chris Seaver and his LBP network came from, check out Taintlight. If you want to see where it is (hopefully) headed, I Spit Chew on Your Grave offers an inspired insight of the sensational shape of things to come.