Based on a recent announcement he sent to friends and fans on Facebook, we could be witnessing the end of Chris Seaver’s reign as the sophomoric court jester of homemade horror comedy. For nearly 19 years (wow!), the upstate New York based filmmaker has plied his particularly perverse sense of camcorder anarchy, creating crazy cult franchises like the Mulva movies and the scatologically surreal Filthy McNasty comedies. While he has dabbled in everything from parody (Quest for the Egg Salad, Ski Wolf) to demented diversions into his own twisted Id (I Spit Chew on Your Grave, the Heather and Puggly Trilogy), he continues to make strides toward a more mainstream acceptance. Indeed, anyone lucky enough to see his brilliant ’80s style satire The Karaoke Kid, or his workplace as weird amalgamation of terror and truth, The Film Crew, can attest to his ability to provide gross-out gagging of our post-millennial Hangover-era of laughs.
But last month, Seaver slapped the Low Budget Pictures faithful with an announcement as desperate as it was depressing. Due to a lack of interest in his latest work, as well increasing commitments to his family (married to the equally talented Lauren, he is the father of a young boy), he may actually be forced to call it quits. While he does have one last epic “road picture” in preparation, we could be smack dab in the middle of the final flail from the mind who up chucked TeenApe, Bonejack, and a wealth of memorable movie miscreants. Sadly, his two latest efforts, the dorks against dweebs masterwork Geek War, and a salty return to sleaze entitled Beyond McNasty: Filthy McNasty Part 4, proves he’s lost none of that madcap motion picture Midas touch. In fact, should he decide to stay behind the lens, one of these two films indicates a clear direction for his future in film – and greater acceptance among a demographic ready to embrace his unusual cinematic sense.
Geek War (Score: 9)
Wonderland comic book store proprietor Deathbone has a mysterious video tape that he’s willing to sell to anyone…as long as they can pony up the $1500 price tag. Surprisingly enough, two competing bands of nerd obsessives are desperate to get their hands on the unknown VHS. On the one side are Max Havoc and his varying collection of Thor/Puppet Master completeists. On the other is local rich kid and prissy piece of sh*t Papillion and his gold-digging groupies. When Max arrives, cash in hand, ready to purchase the home video Holy Grail, he discovers it has already been bought – by new gal in town Tangerine. Immediately, Papillion tries to woo her with cash and crude entendres. Max tries to tap into her inner…geek. As they begin to fall in love, our wealthy villain vows to destroy their relationship, and secure the tape for his very own.
Like an anthology of up to date web-friendly fetishes married to every comic book cliché Kevin Smith ever dreamed of, Geek War represents yet another amazing leap into standard storytelling and complex characterization for Seaver. Unlike earlier efforts, which focused on fear, foul language, and as much human offal as a no budget film could proffer, the filmmaker gives us a typical set-up (competing cliques both after the same prize) and then peppers it with enough inside jokes and Ain’t-It-Cool news bites to make even the most aware ‘Net know-it-all question their info. As Max and his cronies coo over the possible release dates for The Hobbit, as they question the validity of various casting claims for the upcoming Avengers film, as they dig through their collective catalog of off-beat filmic fascinations, we see a Seaver still very much in tune with his true passions. As someone who started out mimicking his favorite horror icons, he has worked his way through hundred of homages – and still finds plenty of action-figure based material to mine.
Even better, Seaver creates a situation we truly care about. Max and Tangerine are clearly a motion picture pairing – destined to be together no matter how frustrating fate makes it. Similarly, Papillion’s constant meddling, meshed with his own intense un-likeability provides the perfect villainous archetype for everyone to play against. To his credit, however, Seaver still manages to imbue all his players with a sense of fun and quirkiness, his good guys never truly sainted, while his baddies often border on the endearing. As usual, the LBP company comes up trumps, delivering performances that balance outrageous antics with concrete interpretation of youth culture. In this case, the stakes are even higher because Seaver et al are preparing to preach to the already converted. Geeks have often been his biggest boosters, supporting his subversive efforts when no one else would pay attention. As a thank you to those who’ve been with him since the beginning, Geek War is a welcome elegy. It’s also one of the best things Chris Seaver has ever created.
Beyond McNasty: Filthy McNasty Part 4 (Score: 7)
Hoping to make their underworld master happy, Schema demons D’Artagnan and her “padwan” Gillyweed decide to answer the request of a homely, hard-up sex ed teacher. She wants to be attractive and alluring, hoping then that some of her students – especially a false braggart named Choach – will satisfy her long dormant desires. At the imps request, she invites her class to a rockin’ party. Of course, our satanic sprites are only interested in some copulation-based human sacrifices. It will be up to the less lecherous members of the student body to find a way to defeat the Schema – and with a little help from some aging experts, they might just be able to “hammer” these heathens back to Hell.
Some might see Filthy McNasty: Part 4 as “Seaver doing Seaver”, and for the most part, they’d be right. Acting as a hired gun for this production, he’s gone back to his hardcore humoristic approach, and aside from a few missed opportunities here and there, he makes the most of the retread. Even though they can be rather repetitive, the Filthy McNasty films have always been the Jokes for the John of Seaver’s output. They bask in their 14 year old hormonally charged mindset about fornication and spew in the frumpy façade of parenta/polite society. Sure, it’s important for the filmmaker to cater to the crowd that made him a name in the first place, but just like the frequent return of TeenApe, the Filthy films tend to limit his imagination. You can see the struggles throughout the opening. As the school kids prepare for another knotted up lesson in sexual suppression, they riff on such seminal subject as the Hobbit films (yes, two mentions in as many movies) and a 22 episode box set for something called Hobo Wars – Miami. In these moments, Seaver seems free and loose, able to do almost anything.
But the minute D’Artagnan and Gillyweed show up, it’s back to the craven and the crude. Granted, some of the XXX material is still very funny, Seaver always adept at coming up with new ways to describe doing the dirty boogie. But once you’ve seen one of the talented LPB cast members sporting an enormous fake demon dong, constantly referring to its Hellspawn hotness and ability to satisfy, there’s little left toe experience. Seaver, for his part, seems to recognize the limited appeal of such outlandishness, and instead tries to infuse these later Filthy films with as much ancillary attraction as well. That’s why we the return of classic dickweed Choach, and X-File-ish visit to famed director alter ego Jacques Le Queef, and the mighty hammer of a famed comic book superhero as a means of metering out anti-Satanic vengeance. With really effective make-up work (D’Artagnan and Gillyweed look great) and a narrative drive that keeps things moving,
Filthy McNasty: Part 4 may not be the best in the series, but it’s no shame either. In fact, its only flaw is being an anarchic albatross that Chris Seaver must wear, even as Geek War symbolizes everything he could be doing. Here’s hoping his “retirement” is short-lived, if at all. As one of homemade filmmaking’s pioneers, the underground subgenre needs Chris Seaver. He is everything good – and taken for granted – within the format.