When this disc arrived in the mail, I was unsure exactly what to expect. Would this be a cheesy spoof or a slasher film, or possibly a low-brow gay comedy? I must confess that my expectations were not very high. However, after watching the film, I also must confess that director Israel Luna’s latest feature was a highly enjoyable slice of camp cinema.
The story opens at a gay bar where a group of transsexuals work as dancers. One of the trannies, Bubbles Cliquot, has just broken off a relationship with an abusive boyfriend who was angry when he discovered what was really under Bubbles’ skirt. To get her mind off of her troubles, the "girls" take her out for a night on the town where they hook up with a couple of guys who seem willing to fool around. Unfortunately for the trannies, the guys are friends of Bubbles’ old flame and the meeting is a set up for some very physical gay-bashing. Two of the trannies are killed and Bubbles is left in a coma. When she awakes, she and the remaining trannies plot their revenge against the three hate-mongers.
Ticked Off Trannies with Knives begins as a pretty funny comedy. After all, what do you expect when the trannies have names such as Pinky La’Trimm, Emma Grashun, Rachel Slurr, and Tipper Sommore. Even Bubbles’ doctor and nurse are named Phil Laccio and Connie Lingus. And her ex-boyfriend’s name is Boner, which is quite appropriate. The initial scenes as we meet the "girls" are both catty and funny, just as I imagine a group of girls out on the town would be. There are plenty of funny one-liners as well as other gags that keep the chuckles rolling. Director Luna does a fine job of balancing his dark brand of humor with what could be some pretty offensive material, the result being the viewer is treated to numerous laughs–as long as they have a bit of a twisted sense of humor. And the humor keeps on rolling even after some rather violent gay-bashing, with Bubbles waking up from her coma unable to speak. Her remaining friends try to interpret her charades which make for some laugh-out-loud moments. Even once Bubbles regains the use of her voice, she discovers she now has a lisp which also becomes the butt of a few jokes.
In one outrageous episode, Luna takes a pretty hilarious dive off the deep end as he has the owner of the gay bar, Fergus, take the trannies to his secret martial arts training school ("Where did you think I went when I took all those vacations…Vegas??") to beef them up before they seek revenge. It’s clear that "tongue in cheek" was the catch phrase during the filming of this movie.
The last third of the film darkens in tone as it moves from laughs to violence and the trannies put their vengeful plan into action. The blood begins to flow as they wreak their gory revenge on their antagonists. Luna again shows his directing chops as he deftly moves from laughs to edge-of-your seat tension. Even though the name of the film kind of gives the ending away, I was still anxious as the climax played out, wondering just how much abuse Luna was going to force the trannies to take before allowing them to get the upper hand. The last 20 minutes is a nice rollercoaster ride.
Overall, I enjoyed Ticked Off Trannies with Knives very much. I must admit I was a bit surprised at the lack of violence. I was really expecting a total bloodbath as the payoff, but it wasn’t the explosion of gore I expected it might become. While there are a few bloody moments, I expected much more gore than the film actually contained, a plus for those who might be tempted to skip this one due to a squeamish stomach.
The one real question I had about the film was Luna’s half-hearted attempt at "grindhouse" filmmaking. While sections of the film had scratches and pops and brief jumps, other sections were perfect. Occasionally the film would stop so that a "Please be patient as we change reels" message could be inserted. I understand the whole grindhouse phenomenon and while I grew up with grindhouse films, I must admit, the recent "coolness" of treating a film to get the grindhouse look is beginning to bore me. And Luna’s half attempt, while not really annoying, was just not very authentic. Either go all the way and pull a Rodriguez and Tarantino or let your pretty film alone. And Trannies is a gorgeous film. Because it takes place primarily in bars and clubs full of neon, it is filled with bright, garish colors, bright reds and blues, and can stand on its own without the grindhouse homage.
Other than the questionable attempt at referencing the grindhouse look, Luna does an excellent job with this film. The actors are all top-notch and play their parts to campy perfection. Not nearly as dirty or as bloody as the title might indicate, this is a very fun movie that, while enjoyable on its own, may be a perfect flick for a group of friends and a keg of beer. Trannies is playing the festival circuit right now and is being released on DVD by Breaking Glass Pictures on November 9. Do yourself and favor and stop by Breaking Glass Pictures’ website and pick this one up. A terrific party flick!