Home Video Hovel: Hobo with a Shotgun
There are movies with ambiguous titles like Atonement, or One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest; titles where if you don’t already know what the movie’s about, you wouldn’t really be able to guess outright what you’re about to see. Then there are titles like Hobo with a Shotgun where you’re pretty sure you know what you’re gonna get without needing any other bit of information whatsoever. In fact, it’s why I put the movie on my Netflix queue in the first place. Even movies with similarly salacious titles can be misleading. For instance, I was sort of upset when I finally saw the original Texas Chain Saw Massacre and found that, while it does take place in Texas, only one person is actually killed with a chainsaw, hardly enough to consider it a “massacre.” But, Hobo with a Shotgun delivers exactly what it promises: The opening shots of the film introduce the Hobo, and by minute 20 he has a shotgun. Like Snakes on a Plane before it, Hobo is that rare micro-budget B-movie that manages to be thoroughly entertaining without being burdened by actually being any good.
The opening shots of the film depict our hero, the Hobo, played by the one and only Rutger Hauer hobo-ing on a freight train eventually getting off at a little burg called “Hopetown,” alternately known by those who live there as “Scumtown” or “Fucktown.” Not two minutes after arriving, the Hobo sees a man get his head torn off in a grisly display of brutality by the film’s three villains, psychotic teenagers Slick and Ivan, and their drug lord/devil incarnate father, The Drake. This is the kind of movie we’re dealing with here, folks, and it’s only the first ten minutes. Based on a contest winner for a fake trailer for Tarantino and Rodriguez’s Grindhouse experiment from a few years ago, Hobo with a Shotgun is a quick and dirty shoot-em-up gorefest with a surprising number of thoughtful scenes (whether they work all the time is another story) with some astonishingly graphic violence and some even more astonishingly bad acting from a lot of the principles. Director Jason Eisener shot the whole bloody thing in his hometown of Halifax, Nova Scotia and, with the exception of Hauer as the hobo and TV actor Gregory Smith as Slick, uses mainly local talent. As such, some of their performances are less than stellar, but fairly uniform.
But who watches movies like this for the acting? The gore is what you want! This movie has it in spades. One would assume with a title like Hobo with a Shotgun we’d only be treated to gunshot violence, but oh, how wrong one would be. Apparently the filmmakers had a personal vendetta against craniums as there are countless shots of people getting their heads torn off, crushed, smashed, shot off, or run over. Most of this violence is perpetrated by the psycho-sons who use The Drake’s power to essentially turn the entire town into their personal drug-dealing, girl-raping, nerd-murdering paradise. In fact, one of their favorite games is crushing guy’s heads with dueling bumper cars. It’s pretty fun, I guess.
The Hobo, however, has a very strict code of morals. He does not like the way the evil folks in the town have all the “honest” people living in fear, and after lowering himself to taking part in a Bumfights-esque stunt for $50 and going to a pawn shop to buy a lawnmower to start a business, the shop is promptly robbed by masked heathens and a little baby gets a gun put to its head, the Hobo takes a shotgun off the wall and dispatches the bad guys. Lucky for him, the pump-action was the same price as the mower. What follows is an attempt to clean up the town “one shell at a time,” depicted by a series of ever-worsening bad guys getting their heads blown off. The Drake and Co. don’t take too kindly to this and retaliate by Slick setting fire to a school bus full of children with a flamethrower…from the inside. Brutal.
There are a surprising number of extras on this DVD to keep all the low-budget horror nerds out there properly satiated. The main feature is what’s called “Shotgun Mode” wherein at various points while watching the film, a target symbol will appear on screen which the viewer can select with the remote to see some bit of behind the scenes footage, from screen tests with Rutger Hauer to explaining how they did the gorier scenes. They’re of varying degrees of interesting and there are about 40 of them or so, at around a minute or two each, so I definitely would not recommend doing this the first time you watch the movie. All of the featurettes can also be viewed on their own or in a row in the special features menu.
Also contained on the first disc are two commentary tracks, one featuring director Jason Eisener, producer Rob Cotterill, writer John Davies, and David Brunt who was the original Hobo for the Grindhouse trailer. This is your standard making-of commentary but the participants all seem to get along great and it’s a fun listen. The other commentary features Eisener and Ruter Hauer, which to be honest was a bit of a surprise. Hauer never struck me as the DVD commentary type, but this track proved me wrong. In addition to general making-of tidbits, this track also provides an account of how Rutger Hauer became involved on the project, which is a pretty interesting story in and of itself.
Also on the disc are deleted scenes and an alternate ending which are moderately entertaining, though why they were cut out is evident. There’s also a short HDNet feature on the making of the film, some video blogs, the original trailer from the SXSW contest as well as the winner of Hobo with a Shotgun’s faux trailer contest winner.
All in all, a pretty nice set for a modest but ambitious gorefest. If you have a Friday night free and a six pack lying around, there are far worse ways to spend 86 minutes. You’ll get exactly what you expect, but sometimes that’s not a bad thing.