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Tuesday, January 17, 2012

SOUTH OF HEAVEN: Darkman's Twin Brotha From a Separate Motha

South of Heaven is the story of a mistaken identity. South of Heaven is a love story. South of Heaven is the story of a disfigured man who goes on a murderous, vengeful rampage. South of Heaven is Darkman! Wait a minute… rewind. South of Heaven is… Darkman? Not exactly, but it’s not so far off either. J.L. Vara has delivered us something to think about… with our eyes.



Disdain for giving up plot points means you get the standard Synapse Films/cover blurb about the plot points in the film, but that would be enough for a clever individual to figure out that when you start disfiguring individuals in order to get what you want you set the stage for a classic revenge film gone Six String Samurai or in this case a sailor ready to pen the great American novel.

Synopsis from Synapse (Synapsis?):
When Roy Coop finished his stint in the Navy, he only had two things on his mind: seeing his brother Dale, and writing the great American novel. What he gets, however, is the homecoming from Hell! A pair of violent vaudevillians (NAPOLIEAN DYNAMITE’s John Gries, and Thomas Jay Ryan) mistake Roy for his brother, looking to collect on a debt he didn’t how he owed. Eight fingers later, Roy is burnt to a crisp, forged by fire into a new man. Roy is Dead. Nobody is born.

Now it’s Nobody’s turn to have his wicked revenge, and to save his brother before it’s too late. Wrapped in bandages and ready for blood, Nobody is determined to kill those that get in his way, even the murdering masochist named Mad Dog Mantee (Seah Whingham, MACHETE and HBO’s BOARDWALK EMPIRE), Dodging bullets and dodging dames, Nobody meets the nasty ne’er-do-wells Lily (Diora Baird, THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACARE: THE BEGINNING) and Veronica (Elina Lowensohn, SCHINDLER’S LIST). In this wonderful neo-film-noir, violence and vengeance are sure to meet in a little town they call… South of Heaven.



First of all: UNCLE RICO GETS PISSED AND BURNS A FUCKERS FACE OFF (But I think you got that from the lengthy synopsis. Hey, it’s on the website and I don’t feel that I’m spoiling anything. So I won’t label this thing spoiler free, but Synapse gives you more than an appetizer of plot here. Second… Do you think that John Gries video tapes himself strong arming helpless debtors? Third, is the straw hat covering up his full on 80’s head of hair? Inquiring minds and all that. Moving on.



This film comes off like the delinquent relative of a Liquid Television sketch gone full length movie. Perhaps that is where I draw the comparison to the film the Six String Samurai. It may not be the best movie with which to draw comparison to South of Heaven solely based on its own cult status. I’m not sure enough of you crazy cats have seen that picture. Hopefully at least a few of you were alive when Liquid Television would air the strangely artistic; Technicolor meets your kids crayon box shorts. Hell, this picture even has visual styling that might touch on Sin City. Just a pinch. As I previously stated this one also feels quite a bit like Darkman.



I don’t think I’m giving away too much when I tell you that the protagonist in the film has his face hidden by bandages. Guess how he got that way? Thugs! Darkman, also had his face burned off by thugs and subsequently wears bandages. Now mentally unstable post burn, both these clever characters turn to revenge to saved loved ones. It doesn’t help that each film has a clearly identifiable bad guy based on an idiosyncratic, out of place piece of apparel. Darkman has Robert Durant with his cigar cutter/finger remover. The henchman of South of Heaven have their straw hats (they do not cut people’s heads off with said hats… boo). It’s a stretch when I tell you that South of Heaven is Darkman, but I bet if you like Darkman and films of the revenge ilk, you’ll also enjoy South of Heaven.

This picture is a funny. It’s not funny “ha ha” or “pee pee”. It is funny “chuckle to yourself lightly and watch your belly jiggle”; Maybe give yourself a case of indigestion. It’s intentionally humorous, but most of the laughs fall flat and your left thinking about that animated, gored lamb. That made the movie for me, and I won’t go into anymore detail than that. Gored lamb. Animated. Think about that. Sounds funny right? You know what’s more funny than gored lambs? How about the Cure… symphonic “Boys Don’t Cry”. Redneck versions of Smiths songs. Redneck versions of DEPECHE MODE SONGS!!! It’s like fully imagining what a Greg Araki picture (thinking Doom Generation but you can insert your favorite nihilistic flick of a different director here) would be like if he cared a little less about personal expression and a little more about killing fucking bad guys.

Most of all, this movies about falling in love, self discovery and turning over a new leaf. No really. It is. All those good wholesome things, but it’s also about self loathing, the degenerate criminal mind and the weakness of the human spirit. I guess it’s a glass half full/half empty film. You watch it and you’ll figure out if you’re an optmist, pessimist or weather you know music trivia.



It’s a fine DVD release from Synapse with some extra short films and a few commentary tracks if you really enjoy that sorta thing. It’s got a great sense of visual-crazy. You’ll love that if you were a fan of MTV before it started sucking. There’s also a nice plot twist or two for those of you who care about such things. Plot is overrated in a film like this. More gore. More laughs, please. Please, please please, let me get a few more animated pictures of mutilated farm animals. I can only watch so many A Perfect Circle videos. I’m sure you’ll at least be entertained. If you hate the film, you’re gonna love that sad bastard soundtrack.

-Dr. Terror

(We fully realize that there is not actual connection and only the remotest similarity between Darkman and South of Heaven... watch the movie. Laugh. Applause. Fin)

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