Some of my fondest movie memories come at the hands of Lloyd Kaufman's Troma films and Peter Jackson's early contributions to the horror genre (Dead Alive and Bad Taste). These experiences have shaped my taste in horror films thoroughly, so it follows that films patterned after the same high-energy, tongue-in-cheek style of filmmaking, are held near and dear to my heart as well. So when it was told to me that Liam Regan's 'Banjo' was a mashup of all these elements, paying homage to many of the films I've grown to adore, there was absolutely no way I was going to miss the opportunity to review the film.
And thank god I didn't.
'Banjo' opens up with, what seems like at first, a pretty spicy love-making scene between the film's protagonist Peltzer Arbuckle (played timidly by James Hamer-Morton) and his voluptuous girlfriend Deetz Montgomery (Dani Thompson). Its not very long into the session that we discover how little actual "love" is involved; with things taking an abusive turn for the worst, leaving Peltzer on the receiving end of a gag-worthy protein facial and bloody nose. Things only snowball from there - if you can believe it possible - and when Peltzer suffers debilitating humiliation at the hands of his co-workers, he's left with no one to turn to but his old trouble-making imaginary best friend and demon, "Ronnie" (Damien Morter). Together, they exact the kind of revenge that would make Kill Bill's "the bride" proud, leaving a bloody string of mutilated, decapitated, and bullet-ridden bodies in their wake. Good times indeed.
Now, when I mentioned the type of films 'Banjo' seemed to be modeled after, that carries with it certain expectations. You can be sure that there's no shortage of blood, guts, and depravity found in the film's 82 minute run-time, but just like it's inspirations, no shortage of comedy either - most of which come as a result of the dynamic between Peltzer and Ronnie. The chemistry shared between the two characters allows for some absolutely hilarious scenes that should otherwise have come off as completely stupid, and hard to buy. But there I was, watching with a huge dumb grin on my face when a bromantic cooking scene (think of the Rocky and Apollo hugging in slow-motion scene from Rocky III, but with food) shared between the two segues into sort of paint-the-town-red montage of hijinks, culminating with one of the film's best gore scenes.
Oh, and it has to be said, that while Peltzer and Ronnie steal the show (as they should), Dani Thompson's Deetz and Vito Trigo's Mr. Sawyer characters work VERY well as catalysts for the bloody rampage that occurs. Both played completely over-the-top-evil, like human versions of Boris and Natasha, every scene they're in is elevated to cartoonish levels of villainy, and you can tell they're having a hell of a good time making that happen. If you've followed either actor before this one, it should come as no surprise either (check out Serial Kaller and Return to Nuke 'Em High).
As you've probably figured out by this point in the review, I found 'Banjo' to be an absolute blast and an unabashedly bloody fun movie to watch, but that's not to say it's completely without its flaws. For starters, it definitely takes some time to really get the ball rolling (though admittedly when it does, it almost never let's up); and the film probably spends more time than needed to get across the point that yeah, Peltzer's life is pretty much dog-shit; so pacing is a bit uneven. Also, and this is just a nitpick, the ending wasn't as explosive as I expected considering the events leading up to it. Yeah, really that's about it.
None of the issues mentioned take much, if anything, away from the film's ability to deliver exactly what I anticipated it to be; 'Drop Dead Fred' from hell, shot with the energy and style of an 80's Peter Jackson horror film and taking place in Tromaville (complete with a silly cameo by the low-budget king of filth himself, Lloyd Kaufman). 'Banjo' is a great kind of homage; respectfully utilizing aspects of it's inspiration to not only give fans of these type of films, what they want, but also creating an identity all it's own.
Be sure to leave a Like at Banjo's Facebook page and keep an eye out for an eventual VOD release date