Posted: 01/30/2012

 

Dead Hooker in a Trunk

(2009)

by Jason Coffman




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After gaining a lot of attention at various film festivals over the last couple of years, Jen and Sylvia Soska’s Dead Hooker in a Trunk is finally getting a U.S. DVD release. It’s no surprise that the film has been talked about extensively in genre circles: it’s a ridiculously gory cartoon, a (nearly) all-girl show packed with enough blood splatter and pitch-black humor to more than deliver what its title promises, and the fact that the film was written and directed by twin sisters gives it a great back story.

At a horrible concert in a dive bar, Junkie (Rikki Gagne) gets into a fight with the band’s “vocalist” and storms off the stage. Badass (Sylvia Soska) lines up an entire bottle’s worth of shots for them to drink in response. The next morning, Junkie and Badass don’t really remember anything from the night before, and are severely hung over. Geek (Jen Soska) gets a text from her friend Goody Two Shoes (C.J. Wallis) asking her to pick him up from his church youth group. Junkie wants to score now that she’s awake, so Badass agrees to pick up Goody Two Shoes as long as they can stop by Junkie’s dealer on the way back.

After picking up Goody Two Shoes at church where Badass has a flirtatious run-in with the attractive Pastor (Loyd Bateman), Badass pops the trunk and the group discovers the titular Hooker (Tasha Moth). Neither Junkie nor Badass can remember anything about the night before, so they have no idea how she got there, and rather than risk going to the cops they decide to finish up their errands for the day and then figure out what to do with her. Geek and Goody Two Shoes don’t approve, but also don’t have much choice, and now the standard stress-free day of picking up drugs is complicated by cops, rival gangs, and at least two vicious killers whose motives aren’t clear, but who are obviously not interested in friendly conversation.

Dead Hooker in a Trunk moves at a brisk pace, constantly dropping its nicknamed protagonists into one awful situation after another. There are a lot of solid practical effects throughout the film, and the Soska sisters famously did all their own stunt work in addition to writing, directing, producing and starring in the film. The film looks great, too— it was clearly shot on digital video, but this look actually helps cement the film’s neo-grindhouse tone. From a technical standpoint, Dead Hooker in a Trunk is a great example of what filmmakers can do with a very small budget.

However, the actual content of the film is only intermittently engaging. The Rodriguez/Tarantino influence is strongly felt, but most of the characters are as one-dimensional as the Hooker, defined primarily by how much swearing they do. Everyone in the cast is good, but only C.J. Wallis as Goody Two Shoes is really required to do much other than look badass and swear profusely— mostly he’s a churchy nerd, but occasionally he is allowed to swear. Although clearly not short on ideas, the film spends a little too much time with the characters instead of moving the cartoonish action forward. The centerpiece scene where Badass storms into Junkie’s dealer’s apartment is the one point of the film where it felt like everything came together exactly the way it was meant to. If all of Dead Hooker in a Trunk had been pitched at that level of absurdity, it would have been an instant classic. As it is, it’s still a hell of a ride, and it sets high expectations for the next film by the Soska Sisters.

IFC Films released Dead Hooker in a Trunk on DVD on 31 January 2012. Special features include delete & alternate scenes, a “behind the scenes” featurette, interview and trailer.

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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