Shudder UK film review: Father’s Day (2011)
Anton Bitel | On 11, May 2018
Cast: Adam Brooks, Matthew Kennedy, Conor Sweeney, Amy Groening
Watch Father’s Day online in the UK: Shudder UK
Every other weekend, our resident horror fanatic Anton Bitel delves into Shudder’s selection of horrors.
In 1980, Troma Entertainment released Charles (brother of co-founder Lloyd) Kaufman’s Mother’s Day – a rape revenger made very much in Troma’s cheap-and-sleazy schlock-and-gore in-house style. So one might be forgiven for assuming that Father’s Day, made for Troma by the Canadian comic collective Astron-6 (Adam Brooks, Jeremy Gillespie, Matthew Kennedy, Steven Kostanski, Conor Sweeney), is a sequel to Kaufman’s film (which was itself remade by Darren Lynn Bousman in 2011). Instead, though, Father’s Day is more spiritual than genetic heir – a loving tribute to the sort of bargain-basement, straight-to-video sensibilities that Troma made its specialty in the 80s. It even features a cameo from Lloyd Kaufman himself as God (or is it the Devil?).
In fact, Father’s Day owes as much of a debt to the faux movie trailers that divided Grindhouse (2007) down the middle, and to the slew of 80s-aping B parodies (Dead Hooker In a Trunk, 2009; Machete, 2010; Hobo With A Hotgun, 2011) that followed in the wake of Robert Rodriguez and Quintin Tarantino’s distressed double-feature. Father’s Day even comes with its own false frame, purporting to be part of a late-night television broadcast (on 6 Astr-TV, “your Channel 6 super station”), and interrupted midway with a fake ad for the next scheduled feature (the lo-fi sci-fi Star Raiders).
Father’s Day begins with a scene of crime, and of revenge. A rotund, bespectacled freak is sawing up a man’s corpse, and variously eating or having sex with the bloody parts, when the eye-patched Ahab (Adam Brooks) bursts in with a gun – but kills the wrong person. 12 years later, Chris Fuchman (Mackenzi Murdoch) is at large again, on another rampage of serial rape and murder, perpetrated exclusively against fathers. Fuchman is Ahab’s whale, having killed Ahab’s own father and half-blinded the boy – and the none-too-bright one-eyed avenger, now a maple-tapping woodsman, is persuaded to return to his urban path of vigilantism by young Catholic priest John Sullivan (Matthew Kennedy). In their armed manhunt, Ahab and John join forces with Twink (Conor Sweeney), the gay hustler whose father was Fuchman’s latest victim. Meanwhile, Ahab reacquaints himself with his long-lost sister, Chelsea (Amy Groening) – now a stripper at the Lowlife Club – who has collated her own scrapbook on the Father’s Day Killer. If only these three men would not keep underestimating her…
Gender politics are indeed important here. For while, like any self-disrespecting 80s cinematic scuzz, Father’s Day boasts lots of gratuitous titties at the Lowllife, it balances, or even outnumbers, those with loads and loads of cock shots. Meanwhile, it upends the conventions of rape revenge by making all the victims male, and having its killer literally Fuch the patriarchy. No surprise, then, that in one scene, the bearded, hyper-macho Ahab must disguise himself as a blonde woman in a red dress – for here the norms of sex and gender are constantly being called into question. Similarly, John’s narrative journey – a theological one – keeps challenging the place and rôle of God in a universe where Fuchman, or indeed a piece of offensive trash like Father’s Day, can exist.
Father’s Day revels in the cheesy dialogue, dumb-assed characters and genre-bound nonsense that made the 80 great – or grate, depending upon your point of view – but has the advantage of being a self-aware, closely studied parody. There is a car chase, a freakout trip in the desert, Satanic rituals, a martial arts training sequence, an ’emotional’ montage, a multi-angle, rock-tracked sex scene, and even a descent into Hell itself – all stock scenes, here exaggerated to their absurd limits and beyond, while accompanied by unpleasant old-school practical effects. It is all at once amateurish and sophisticated, funnily wrong and shockingly hilarious.
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