Friday, September 4, 2009

A Nice Tribute, But 'Smash Cut' Nothing Smashing

When I first heard that Lee Demarbe, director of Jesus Christ Vampire Hunter, was teaming up with one of my cult film acting heroes, David Hess, and porn star Sasha Grey, I was as intrigued as any man could be over the gathering of such an odd cast.

Hess, now older, is immortalized in the exploitation hall of fame for psychotic performances of the 1970s and 1980s in films such as the original The Last House on the Left, Hitch-Hike and The House on the Edge of the Park.

Grey, well we know what she does for a living. But that’s not to knock the actresses and her attempt to transition to film. Smash Cut is officially her first film, not The Girlfriend Experience, even though it was released first.

And to complete the round-up, Demarbe really hasn’t made a relevant film since his 2001 Jesus kicks ass film that made some cult status impact. Titles such as The Dead Sleep Easy and Vampiro: Angel, Devil, Hero have taken up Demarbe’s time since then.

But alas we get to Smash Cut, Demarbe’s schlocky b-movie about a crazed director named Able Whitman (Hess) who after receiving terrible reviews on his latest films goes on a mad killing spree of those around him. When one of the victim’s sisters, April Carson (Grey), hires an infamous private detective named Isaac Beaumonde (Jesse Buck), Whitman finds himself trying to cover up the tracks.

Now your immediate reaction to Smash Cut really depends on your personal view of the genre. If you like the legendary filmmaker Herschell Gordon Lewis this crazed-out, schlocky and at times darkly humorous film might strike a few chords with you. On the other hand, if you prefer good acting, a developed storyline and anything that resembles high production values, well, let’s just say you’ll find this to be a stinker.

Without a veteran name like David Hess’ this film would find no audience. I know he’s the only reason I watched it, and others would probably admit to the same thing. While older, Hess can still play the maniacal performance well. The problem here is that he doesn’t have a talented genius like Wes Craven or a madman as crazy as Ruggero Deodato around him to help create a truly psychotic film that leaves a wallop of an impression on its viewers.

Instead, Demarbe’s dedication is to filmmaker Lewis, whose line of films includes a whole array of titles very similar in content to this one. Wooden acting, cheap plot devices and lots of silly deaths and special effects that wouldn’t fool most people. And yet, Smash Cut tends to entertain on certain levels. It has the feel of the old films it dedicated itself to. Most of what Demarbe’s doing has to be taken with your tongue in cheek.

Smash Cut really isn’t anything to become passionate over. Fans of Hess should appreciate his performance, even if it won’t be remembered as one of his bests ever. This film isn’t good, it’s hardly even average, but whatever it is, it surely isn’t terrible. Demarbe’s passion for the genre shows, he just can’t pull it all together like some others are able to.

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