by Jason Coffman
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I’m just going to put this right out there: What Wet Hot American Summer is to early-80s summer camp sex comedies, Father’s Day is to the grindhouse revenge films of the 70s. In other words, while at first glance Father’s Day seems to be yet another neo-“grindhouse”/post-Grindhouse tribute to the heyday of exploitation cinema, it’s actually more of a parody of those films, with more than a little absurdist humor. It’s hilarious, disgusting, unpredictable, and clearly signals the arrival of its creators, comedy collective Astron-6, as a force to be reckoned with.
Chris Fuchman (Mackenzie Murdoch), the legendary monster who rapes and murders dads, has returned to terrorize the city. Ailing Father O’Flynn (Kevin Anderson) sends young priest Father John Sullivan (Matthew Kennedy) to find Ahab (Adam Brooks), a man sworn to vengeance against Fuchman after seeing his dad raped and murdered when he was a young boy. Sullivan brings Ahab back, and in addition to resuming his blood oath of revenge, Ahab reunites with his long-lost sister Chelsea (Amy Groening), now a stripper. Ahab, Sullivan and Chelsea join forces with teen prostitute Twink (Conor Sweeney), who also lost his father to Fuchman.
For its first act, Father’s Day seems mostly content to jet forward with the gore and taboo levels set to 11— for sheer transgressive “entertainment,” Father’s Day makes even Jason Eisener’s Hobo with a Shotgun look like a Merchant Ivory production. It makes perfect sense that the film is being released by Troma, whose name was frequently invoked in discussions of Hobo with a Shotgun. It’s tough to imagine any other company willing to release a film with this much penile trauma and male rape. If Troma specialized in jaw-dropping offense at the height of its popularity in the VHS era, Father’s Day represents an updated version of that same sensibility that originally put them on the map.
However, Father’s Day also has a darkly anarchic sense of humor and an unpredictability that puts it on an entirely different level than what audiences have come to expect from Troma. In fact, the film goes off in an entirely unexpected direction in its final act, which is so surreal and bizarre that it transcends the neo-“grindhouse” style and becomes something completely different. To say much more would be spoiling some of the film’s many surprises, but suffice to say that Ahab’s quest takes on a considerably wider scope than simple revenge against the man who killed his father and took his eye. 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.
With Father’s Day, the recent release of Drew Rosas’s 80s slasher parody Blood Junkie and their deal to distribute Drew Bolduc and Dan Nelson’s wildly inventive and offensive indie shock-horror epic The Taint, Troma seems to be having something of a renaissance. While Lloyd Kaufman’s Poultrygeist was a great time, it’s unlikely to change anyone’s mind about the concept of a “Troma film.” Father’s Day, on the other hand, may do just that. It’s easily one of the best films of this young year so far. If you’re a hardcore cult film fan and Father’s Day plays anywhere near you on the big screen, you owe it to yourself to go.
Jason Coffman is a film writer living in Chicago. He writes reviews for Film Monthly and is a regular contributor to Fine Print Magazine (www.fineprintmag.net).
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