Make-Out with Violence
by Jason Coffman
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The low-budget zombie movie is nothing new, but as the genre becomes more and more glutted with aspiring Romeros, it’s getting tougher to sift through the garbage and find something truly interesting. For every fun, enjoyable little indie zombie movie, there are dozens of dour, witless gorefests. So it’s something of a revelation when a genuinely unique film comes along and completely confounds expectations of what a zombie movie can be. Make-Out with Violence, a 2008 film by The Deagol Brothers that has just recently been released on DVD by Factory25, is one of those films.
The film is narrated by Beetle (Brett Miller), younger brother of Patrick (Eric Lehning) and Carol (Cody DeVos), a pair of fraternal twins. During Patrick and Carol’s senior year of high school, their friend and Beetle’s frequent babysitter Wendy (Shellie Marie Shartzer) goes missing. Months pass with no sign of Wendy, so finally her family holds a memorial service at the start of the Summer leading up to her friends’ leaving town to go to college. Patrick and Carol’s friend Rody (Jordan Lehning) puts Patrick and Carol in charge of house-sitting in his stead while he takes off for adventures elsewhere, leaving directly after Wendy’s memorial service. Patrick goes home, while Carol and Beetle make a terrifying discovery: Wendy, not alive but not dead exactly, tied to a pair of trees near a small stream. They take her home and hide her in a shed in the back yard while they try to figure out what to do.
Meanwhile, life goes on. Wendy’s boyfriend Brian (Josh Duesning) starts spending more and more time with Wendy’s best friend Addy (Leah High), much to Carol’s dismay. Addy’s boarding school friend Anne Haran (Tia Shearer) pursues Carol, while Patrick holes up in Rody’s house with Wendy. As the Summer advances, Patrick’s unrequited crush becomes a dangerous obsession. He offers to help Carol win Addy’s heart with a 13-step plan, but Beetle realizes it’s only to get Carol out of the way. As Carol executes the plan, Patrick gives up more and more of his time to stay with Wendy, and as the end of the Summer draws near and the return of Rody’s family becomes imminent, something has to give.
Make-Out with Violence is not necessarily a “zombie movie.” Despite its dark subject matter, it’s frequently very funny and surprisingly touching. Beetle and Carol, particularly, are characters to whom it’s tough not to become attached. The Deagol Brothers handle the major shifts in tone from comedy to tragedy with surprising ease. The time the film spends with its characters, in circumstances both deliriously good and dangerously bad, pays off in the bleak, bittersweet finale. How else to end a film that honestly looks at the end of adolescence from the perspective of the young characters staring it down? Make-Out with Violence is something truly special, a film that deftly incorporates traits of wildly different genres while utterly ignoring the boundaries between them. This is one of the best films I’ve seen this year.
Factory 25 released Make-Out with Violence on DVD and Blu-ray Tuesday October 26th. Extras include alternate and deleted scenes, deleted score pieces, commentary with the filmmakers’ younger brothers(?), radio spots, behind-the-scenes featurettes and more. Also available is a package with the DVD and a vinyl LP of the film’s soundtrack by the Non-Commissioned Officers, which was composed along with the film during its production.
Jason Coffman is a film writer living in Chicago. He writes reviews for Film Monthly and “The Crown International Files” for Criticplanet.org.
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