When I originally reviewed Father’s Day back in February (here), I knew the film was something great. Sure enough, six months later Father’s Day has proven to be my favorite film of 2012, and like all of the film’s rabid fans, I’ve been looking forward to its official release on Blu-ray for quite some time. Now that it’s here, though, I can’t help but feel conflicted about Troma’s release of Father’s Day. On the one hand, despite all the behind-the-scenes conflict between filmmakers Astron 6 and Troma, Father’s Day remains a brilliantly inventive comedy that should absolutely be seen by any die-hard cinephile. On the other, this release does not feature Astron-6’s final cut of the film, making it problematic to recommend the set without some serious reservations.
But before digging into that, a quick recap of the film itself: After a long dormancy, the “Father’s Day Killer” Chris Fuchman (Mackenzie Murdock) has returned to resume his campaign of rape and murder against all dads. Father John Sullivan (Matthew Kennedy) is sent to find Ahab (Adam Brooks), a vigilante who lost his own father to Fuchman as a child and is now bent on revenge. Father John and Ahab team up with teen prostitute Twink (Conor Sweeney), while Ahab’s long-lost sister Chelsea (Amy Groening), now a stripper who does the detective work on Fuchman’s crime scenes that the local police seem incapable of, tries to convince Ahab that she can help him find and destroy Fuchman. Their quest for vengeance ends up going to some very strange places as Ahab learns he has to follow Fuchman to hell and back– perhaps literally– to stop his reign of terror.
What Wet Hot American Summer is to early-80s summer camp sex comedies, Father’s Day is to the brutal grindhouse revenge films of the 70s. In other words, it is both a loving tribute to and an absurd parody of the heyday of exploitation cinema. It’s hilarious, disgusting, bizarre and unpredictable. Tasked by Troma to come up with a feature based on a mock trailer (available to view here), Astron-6 took up the challenge by pushing the limits of sex and violence well past what even the nastiest 70s revenge picture has to offer. The last 30 minutes of Father’s Day are probably going to sharply divide people looking for another Hobo with a Shotgun and those willing to follow Astron-6 down their hilariously macabre rabbit hole.
This is all still completely valid, but discussing Father’s Day in more detail requires talking about a very modern problem for filmmakers and studios: The internet. Social media sites like Facebook and Twitter put artists in direct contact with their fans, and sometimes this lays bare problems that previously would have been dealt with out of the public eye. No such luck here, as Astron-6 and Troma have been involved in a very public conflict over the release of Father’s Day that has culminated in the release of this “limited edition” 4-disc set. Originally slated as a 3-disc set with a full-length commentary track and “making of” feature, Troma ditched the film’s original release date and scrapped most of the planned special features that had been announced for this set after Astron-6 released the trailer for No Sleep, No Surrender, their documentary on the making of Father’s Day that clearly paints Troma in an unfavorable light.
After some internet backlash, Troma announced a new 4-disc version of Father’s Day, and that is what has been released. This set features one Blu-ray disc (with the film), a DVD of the film, a second DVD of special features, and a soundtrack cd called “An Eventing with Smokey Miles” (which also features two songs by Brian Wiacek, for a total of 9 tracks). There is a fair amount of content on the special features disc, but the biggest point of contention in the set is not the omission of several previously-announced special features. According to Astron-6, the cut of Father’s Day available in this set is actually not the final cut of the film that they intended to be released and seen. This places fans in an awkward position, as it seems highly unlikely given the current state of the relationship between Astron-6 and Troma that a corrected set with the actual final cut of the film is going to be on the way any time soon. However, knowing that the version of the film in this set is not the version that the filmmakers intended for release makes it difficult to recommend.
Again, despite all this, I absolutely consider Father’s Day one of the best films I’ve seen this year. It deserves to be seen, and Astron-6 deserves to be huge. They have created an amazing film on a miniscule budget, packed with fantastic makeup and effects, solid performances, and an utterly unique sense of humor carried over from their excellent short film work. Troma deserves credit for helping bring Astron-6 more attention, and for giving Father’s Day a theatrical release, however abbreviated. Unfortunately, though, the fact that Troma has elected to release a version of the film that is not the filmmakers’ final cut is inexcusable. Hopefully we’ll eventually be able to see the film the way it was meant to be seen, but in the meantime, this Troma release is the only way the film can be seen at all. It’s well short of ideal, but for anyone looking for a truly unique comedic voice, I’m glad to recommend Astron-6’s work in general and Father’s Day in particular. Fingers crossed that the home video release of Manborg goes more smoothly than this one.
Troma released Father’s Day in a limited edition 4-disc set on Tuesday, 7 August 2012. Special features include 2 deleted scenes, 2 makeup/effects featurettes, 5 trailers, 3 slide shows (behind-the-scenes, Rue Morgue magazine article, and “Super Tromette Elena Re-creates the Lowlife”), 2 Astron-6 shorts (“Lazer Ghosts 2” and “Cool Guys”), a featurette on the making of the film’s poster by The Dude Designs, footage from Father’s Day premieres in various cities, an excerpt from the Father’s Day panel at Texas Frightmare Weekend, an introduction by Lloyd Kaufman on the special features disc, and “Tromatic special features” (Troma trailers, etc.). The DVD version of the film also features an introduction by Lloyd Kaufman, and the fourth disc is a CD entitled “An Eventing with Smokey Miles,” featuring 7 tracks by Miles and 2 tracks by Brian Wiacek. The “liner notes” for the set include a poem by Guy Maddin and notes by David Annandale & Trevor Tuminski.