As a devotee of film my friends know that I can pretty much find something in most any movie that can be described as entertainment. Sometimes it requires being in the mood for the bizarre or off beat or surrounding yourself with friends to play the MST3K home game with a particularly bad film. It is even possible to alter your take to accommodate the style of a director; going into an Ed Wood film expecting a comedy, for example. In the past I’ve mused that perhaps this disposition is due, at least in part, in growing up watch horror flicks in the old Manhattan grind houses. Still, even with that there are films that are so completely ill conceived that trying to find a redemptive aspect is neigh on impossible. One such flick that occupies the nadir of the film industry is ‘Smash Cut’. This is a Canadian independent movie with the miniscule budget of about $CAD350,000. Most of us have seen Indy movies made on even less that have become stellar examples of the cinematic arts. I’ll give ‘Smash Cut’ as much benefit of doubt as humanly possible but in the final analysis the movie just doesn’t hold together. It is feasible that the filmmaker here, Lee Demarbre working on a script by Ian Driscoll was trying for high camp or ironic satire but considerable technical proficiency that further experience can provide is necessary. This could be a passable beer and pizza movie but the quality of ethanol required would be dangerously over the legal limit. The thing is there was a nagging feeling that I was missing the point after my initial viewing so I went back to watch it again. I even went so far as to pull another movie directed by Demarbre from my collection, ‘Stripped Naked’ to try to ascertain some pattern or theme he was trying to establish. Then it occurred to me that this director had an introduction to movies somewhat similar to my own; the grind houses of the seventies. His movies would fit right in to those one buck wonders we used to see as kids. His homage to these prototypical exploitation slasher flicks just happens to be dead on accurate, pun definitely intended.
When we first see wannabe auteur Able Whitman (David Hess) he is heavily made up in clownish makeup. He is in a strip club getting a lap dance from his ecdysiast of preference, Gigi (Jennilee Murray). Able is such a pathetic figure that the stripper is reticent to take his money. Able is down in the dumps because he can’t get sufficiently realistic effects in the horror film he was working on. He informs Gigi that she is his muse. While driving her home they get into a crash Killing Gigi instantly. He pulls at her arm and it comes off. The gruesome idea strikes him; use her severed limb in his movie. Of course, the idea works, his effects never looked better. Meanwhile, a young woman, April Carson (Sasha Grey), a TV news personality is searching for her missing sister that just happens to be Gigi. She hires the services of a broken down private investigator, Isaac Beaumonde (Jesse Buck) who point her in the direction of the film in production. April see Able as the only reasonable suspect so April gets a job on set to gather clues to what happened to her sister. Gigi’s arm was so successful and cost conscious that Able comes to the conclusion that what he needed most was more body parts. Obsessed by this new directorial styling Able starts a killing spree to keep the set full of fresh, non union extras.
Unless you were a frequent attendee of exploitation flicks and grind house as a genre you will not get the intent of this movie. This might divide the audience along generational lines with those of us that remember draft card lotteries on one side and the post Industrial Lights and Magic generation on the other. Part of the establishing criteria for this sort of movie is ultra cheap effects and one take shots that provide no time for artistry or nuance. With Demarbre behind the camera and Ian Driscoll providing the screenplays they are becoming a cinematic tribute band to exploitation flick. This film brought me right back to those Times Square theaters that specialized in these movies. They were once grand palaces of film that had fallen on hard times so the owners could only afford these inexpensive flicks. Some of the current great filmmakers in the industry sat in those over worn seats influenced by this kind of movie. The teams of Driscoll and Demarbre have captured the essence of those films to a tee hitting every aspect we remember. The costumes are intentional cheap and outlandish, the makeup applied in haste by someone with less understanding of the process than a ten year old girl playing with Mommy’s lipstick. These films were intended to give a few gross out moments, several shocks and plenty of laughs, this is exactly what you are going to get while watching ‘Smash Cut’. Even the title is a little industry inside joke. A smash cut is when a scene changes abruptly with no transition. This was a common occurrence in grind house films either because the filmmaker couldn’t afford the time, expense or expertise for this post production effect or, in many cases, because these films were past around theater to theater accumulating a number of poorly made splices affording the same effect. One name you might recognize but will deny in front of your wife or girl friend is Sasha Grey. At twenty four she is the veteran of s couple of hundred adult films. recently she has been breaking into the mainstream with films like Steven Soderbergh’s ‘Girl Friend Experience’ and a regular role on HBO’s ‘Entourage’.
Commentary With Director Lee Gordon Demarbre