Friday, 23 December 2016

Dickshark (2016) - Movie Review

Yeah, I had a feeling that those words would come back to bite me in the arse before too long. We’re talking about Bill Zebub once again, the only director who seems to be trying to push the aestheticisation of rape as well as the king of cringingly slow and awkward sex scenes, and this looks to be something of a new landmark for the guy. I could point to Zebub’s own blurb for the film saying that it is “the most absurd movie that [he] has ever created”, but that’s not why I consider it as such. No, this one marks new levels for his filmography because the film I’m going to talk about today, the rather humourously titled Dickshark, is almost three hours long. The Uncut version available on Vimeo is not only the only copy of the film I could secure in time for a review but it’s also a version that is markedly longer than what will be found on the DVD/Blu-Ray copies of the film. Yeah, I can’t help but feel that this is karma for complaining about long run times in the past. Still, I made it a point of reviewing both of Zebub’s works last year so might as well keep going from here.

The plot: As usual for Bill Zebub, the plot isn’t exactly the easiest to keep up with even in a film like this, but I’ll do my best. After a couple have a horrific incident when the man’s penis enlargement cream turns his dick into a blood-thirsty shark, the cream’s inventor (Bill Zebub) goes through a series of experiments to do… something.

You know, it isn’t the fact that this film is as objectively long as it is; I mean, as filmmakers like Peter Jackson have shown, a lengthy run time is sometimes needed to deliver a complete story (or, in the case of the Hobbit films, a disjointed story). No, where that becomes a problem is when that attitude is applied by someone like Bill Zebub, a director whose work is so long-winded and aimless that it can often feel like it’s going on for days at a time. And sure enough, his style of storytelling is very much intact here. Along with the usual incredibly awkward and uncomfortable sex scenes, even when they’re consensual, we get some of the most egregious uses of slow motion that I’ve ever seen in any film. It’s usually reserved for women stripping, getting screwed by the titular dickshark or even an enlarged dickspider that turns up, or even something as simple as getting off of a bed.

On top of that, we also get some very, very long monologues from Bill Zebub’s scientist to essentially talk about whatever he feels like talking about; the film’s Vimeo page boasts that every word of the original script is in here and I certainly don’t doubt it. Then again, this film is probably made as long as it is not because of the written dialogue, but from the kept-in flubs and improvisation that takes place. You can tell it’s improvised because it’s not quite as stiled as the rest of the dialogue.

Rather than being strictly about the sex or even the main conceit of the film, the opening of which is kind of hilarious in how much difficulty the woman has in trying to mouth the prosthetic dickshark, the bulk of the film boils down to just being a series of long musings by Zebub. With the wide range of often irrelevant topics that he sees fit to talk about, it really comes across like he just wanted to make some lecture videos for YouTube. But he probably figured that that’d be too boring so he just threw a bunch of tits on top of it. That said, he at least seems to be back in Forgive Me For Raping You “inane but still interesting” writing mode here because he can actually be quite engaging with the topics he espouses on. Socioeconomics, politics, science, religion; all is fair game around here.

The views he expresses about these also tend to wildly vary in terms of how effective they are as agitprop. He can be kind of interesting, if really bloody callous, when talking about religion, neuroscience and how society needs stupid people in order to function; I may not agree with his points, but it is fascinating in learning how the guy’s brain works. Of course, it also dips into the realms of extreme pettiness, particularly when he starts talking about the Hollywood system and how people just don’t get his style of humour. As I said last year with Loving A Vegetable, his very basic and lame sense of telling jokes on film is still a serious problem and talking down to his audience for just being too stupid not to appreciate it… yeah, there’s not enough self-awareness in the world to shield one’s self from this kind of idiocy.

However, more so than Zebub himself, there is someone else in the cast list that honestly got me kind of excited to keep watching: John Giancaspro. Now, I’m not expecting most of my readers to know who the guy is by name alone, but he is made of awesome. Best known (or more accurately only known, given how they are his only other film credits) for playing the psychopath-to-end-all-psychopaths Harry Russo in the Schizophreniac trilogy, he may not be the strongest technical actor but he has a talent for channelling a GG Allin-like penchant for anarchic ravings that makes him honestly one of my favourite indie actors. And even considering his track record for psychotic Korine-esque debauchery, he is easily the closest any of Zebub’s films to date have gotten to actual acting.

Playing an opposing scientist to Zebub himself, he ends up getting a fair few monologues to himself as well… and they’re actually not that bad. Hell, his final monologue, while fairly obvious in that you can tell he’s just reading it off the script, ends up reaching a certain facet of legitimate drama. That said, his very presence in this film kind of highlights one of Bill Zebub’s biggest issues as a filmmaker: He has an equal love for the insane and weird as someone like Ron Atkins, but none of the kitchen sink flair or chaotic energy that comes with it. It’s crazy but, with how strained and wordy it gets, it’s a rather dull kind of crazy.

All in all, this is certainly better than I was expecting out of a film with this director and this run time behind it. That said, we’re still talking about Bill Zebub here and his lingering defects keep showing through: Clunky writing, clunkier acting (for the most part) and a general air of apathetic smugness that makes even his more insightful remarks difficult to take on board. What ultimately makes this kind of worth watching is the few scenes with John Giancaspro, who just highlights why he should be in more movies outside of this and his work with Ron Atkins.

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