Getting Even with Dads, by Rita Cannon
Reviewing a movie like Father’s Day can be tricky. It’s produced by Troma Entertainment, the legendary independent company behind such classics of cult weirdness as The Toxic Avenger and Surf Nazis Must Die. Like most Troma films, it’s an homage to B-movies of yesteryear, and while it’s not quite intentionally bad, it’s at least intentionally referencing badness. Nothing about it is supposed to be sensible or believable, or even particularly pleasant. A mega-gory send-up of rape revenge films runs a high risk of alienating people who don’t get the joke (not that anyone at Troma has ever been much concerned with people-pleasing), but Father’s Day is a lot more fun to watch than its gag-reflex-baiting subject matter would suggest. It’s as good-natured as a film with multiple scenes of penis mutilation can possibly be.
The story is put in motion by the crimes of Chris Fuchman (Mackenzie Murdoch). Known as the Father’s Day Killer, Fuchman has a penchant for raping and murdering fathers, and is already an established urban legend at the start of the film. Still on the loose and raping as many dads as ever, Fuchman must be stopped. The task falls to three men directly affected by the crimes – earnest young priest Father John (Matthew Kennedy), rebellious street kid Twink (Conor Sweeney), and their leader, a one-eyed, turtleneck-and-leather-jacket-clad badass named Ahab (Adam Brooks). With the help of Ahab’s tough stripper sister Chelsea (Amy Groening), they set off on a weird, bloody quest to bring Fuchman to justice.
And I do mean weird, and I do mean bloody. The bulk of the film alternates between scenes of clever, absurdist, largely dialogue-dependent comedy, and scenes of over-the-top, ultra-violent ickiness. Sometimes one leads directly into the other, as in a scene where our three heroes argue in circles about who should pull an important key out of the mouth of a mutilated corpse, and then have to, you know . . . actually do that.
The contrast between these two elements can sometimes be jarring. While all of the film’s violence is extreme and graphic, some of it is willfully cartoonish, and thus a little easier to take (if you’ve been waiting to see a fight scene in which a topless woman uses a chainsaw and a dildo as weapons, your time has come). The gore still makes you squirm, but you’re grinning while you do it. Other scenes – mostly those of Fuchman attacking his victims, of which there are several – are treated with more realism, and those are the ones you really want to turn away from in horror. Moving from one of the latter scenes into another round of Mel Brooks-y silliness can feel a little rocky, and it’s not very clear whether the film intends this or not.
There are also surprising fits of seriousness when it comes to the character of Twink and his hostile relationship with his father. They share two scenes together – one in the world of the living, and one after both characters have died and confront each other in Hell (several of Father’s Day‘s pivotal scenes take place in Hell, because why not?). Both are emotionally brutal and conspicuously joke-free. The scenes basically work, thanks to some good acting from Sweeney and Billy Sadoo as the father, but they feel set apart from the rest of the film, and don’t serve an obvious thematic or emotional purpose. If anything, wouldn’t his father’s unabashed awfulness make Twink less determined to avenge his death?
The writing and directing credit on Father’s Day goes to Astron-6, a creative collective made up of the three lead actors and their fellow filmmakers Jeremy Gillespie and Steven Kostanski. Father’s Day is their first feature-length outing, and it displays all the enthusiasm and artistic bravado you’d expect from a bunch of crazy new kids on the block. If you’re a fan of Troma, B-movies, or comedy-horror films in general – I’m talking about the kind of fan for whom the words “penis mutilation” are not necessarily a deal breaker – this weird but witty acid trip of a movie is worth checking out.