It seems that the interest level in grindhouse homages is still on an upswing, with just about everyone trying to cash in on the rediscovery of these filmic roughies of a bygone era. We have cheapo collections of "grindhouse classics" being churned out left and right by unscrupulous companies that charge $10 for 20 flicks (and for the most part I’ve found the 20 flicks ain’t worth the $10!), we have collections of "classic grindhouse trailers" selling for $20 a pop or more (many times these are really fun to watch), and of course, there is a glut of cheap indie flicks that are billed as grindhouse fare just clogging the market right now. Producers plaster the titles of (in)famous grindhouse films across the covers of their own films (more violent than Last House on the Left! more shocking than I Spit on Your Grave!), hoping to associate their film with the real thing thereby suckering poor fools into parting with their hard-earned cash for a cheap flick that bears almost no resemblance to classic seventies exploitation. For the most part, this new strain of "grindhouse film" is spotty at best; but every once in a while you find a gem amongst them.
Run! Bitch Run! is one of the rare gems of today’s grindhouse homages. In fact, it transcends being just an homage and enters into the realm of being a genuine, modern grindhouse classic. Filmed on a shoestring budget, Run! Bitch Run! nevertheless manages to have decent production value as well as generally good acting, something the most memorable grindhouse films also managed to do, sometimes quite by accident. In fact, I have a theory that the reason some of these films touched the audiences’ collective nerve is because the audience wasn’t prepared to see a film with solid production values and authentic acting, so on the rare occasion this happened, those films managed to transcend the rundown theaters of 42nd Street to grab a spot in American cinematic history. If we look at some of the best of the true grindhouse classics, perhaps beginning with Romero’s Night of the Living Dead and continuing on with Last House on the Left, I Spit on Your Grave, Fight for Your Life, Vanishing Point, House on the Edge of the Park, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and Cannibal Holocaust, all of these films were shot for pennies on the dollar, but all managed to wring reasonably high production value from those pennies. While many of the actors and actresses were either new to the profession or outright amateurs, they somehow gave some of the most realistic and authentic performances in low-budget film. When the killers in Last House are examining the entrails of one of their murder victims, they aren’t unrealistically gleeful; rather, they are sickened and disgusted by what they have done. While Edwin Neal and Jim Siedow play characters that are so loony as to stretch the bounds of imagination in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, they nevertheless manage a realism in their roles that is downright scary–you believe these people exist. And when William Sanderson (of Larry, Darryl and Darryl fame from the Bob Newhart Show) spews his racist epithets in Fight For Your Life, you see him as the most vile and hateful racist that ever existed–though he became more famous as a fantastic comedic actor. Other films go for the jugular and hit the audience with such depressing material that never lets up, it’s impossible to forget the images that are burned into your brain. Witness Cannibal Holocaust and House on the Edge of the Park. For the most part, I found Run! Bitch Run! to have the same over-the-top, frenetic acting that made all the above films so memorable. There were really only a couple of scenes where the acting was amateurish enough to take me out of the film, but they were small scenes that finished quickly. One scene, between a pimp and his whore-and-mother-of-his-baby, is outrageously funny as well, so it is easily forgiven.
The plot is quite simple and is similar to dozens of exploitive rape-revenge films. Two Catholic schoolgirls are selling Bibles house-to-house. They accidentally witness a murder as they are knocking on the door of the local sleazebag’s house. In order to prevent them from talking, the sleazebag and his sidekicks kidnap the girls, raping, torturing, and humiliating them before killing them. Unfortunately for the gang of criminals, one of the girls is left clinging to life; after a long period of recuperation, she comes searching for the evildoers in order to exact her revenge. Sound like a film you’ve seen before? It is. Probably on at least a dozen occasions. I can’t help but think of They Call Her One Eye (AKA Thriller–A Cruel Picture) and Kill Bill. But co-writer/director Joseph Guzman makes sure to keep this old story interesting.
Guzman has crafted a twisted flick populated with detestable characters. He and Robert James Hayes have written a script that holds absolutely nothing back. The film is degrading, disgusting, mean-spirited and politically incorrect. Many people will find the film too vile and depraved to watch it all the way through and will quickly dismiss it as trash. I thought the film was great fun.
Run! Bitch Run! opens with no less than three different couples having sex, all intercut with each other. One couple is watching a pornographic film involving murderous lesbian nuns. So right away, the viewer knows what he’s in for. All the characters are ripped right out of low-budget exploitation films, including Lobo, the crazy, murderous leader of the gang; Clint, the stuttering, inept sidekick who can’t do anything right; and Marla, the whore of the group with will screw anyone for drugs and has a fetish for murder. We also have the two virginal schoolgirls who get caught up in the madness and mayhem: Rebecca, the "wild child" who gets her comeuppance all too soon in the film; and Catherine, the sweet young thing who suffers as much abuse as Camille Keaton did in I Spit on Your Grave. All of these main characters are very good, particularly Peter Tahoe as Lobo, who is as crazed as Bill Moseley was in The Devil’s Rejects, and Johnny Winscher as Clint, the slightly retarded sidekick. Also excellent, particularly during the scenes of abuse in the woods and the final scenes of revenge, is Cheryl Lyone as Catherine, rape victim-turned-vigilante.
In classic grindhouse fashion, there is plenty of gratuitous nudity on display, as well as sexual degradation and graphic violence. Particularly outrageous were scenes including Marla masturbating with a toilet plunger in the bathroom and the machete-to-the-ass during Lobo’s climactic death. There is also a fantastic score that sounds as if it was stolen from an early seventies porn film, complete with screaming lead and pulsing bass. While at first it seems a bit incongruous for the film, in reality it is exactly the right score for this gritty, no-holds-barred slice of exploitation.
While not for everyone, Guzman hits the ball out of the park for fans of classic grindhouse sleaze. I can’t wait to see his nunsploitation follow-up, entitled Nude Nuns with Big Guns (and I bet we ain’t just talkin’ weapons, if ya know what I mean…). Run! Bitch Run! has been released on Breaking Glass Pictures’ Vicious Circle label and is widely available. For more information, go to www.breakingglasspictures.com.