Blu-ray Review: FATHER'S DAY, Great Film Or The Greatest Film?
I am an Astron-6 junkie.
Ever since I saw their faux trailer for the brilliantly titled Lazer Ghosts 2: Return to Laser Cove (yes, laser is spelled two different ways in the title), I was hooked. This is a band of miscreants with whom I share a common twisted sensibility and genuine love for trash filmmaking. As a thirty-two year old man who grew up scouring the shelves of his local Mom & Pop video stores for hidden treasure, I understand the aesthetic that Astron-6 mas made their trademark. Last year I reviewed the Astron-6 short films collection from Troma, and in that set was evidence galore of the boys' fondness for '80s films of all stripes. However, their love of late '70s - early '80s exploitation/horror films has never found a more cohesive shape than in their 2011 Toronto After Dark award winner, Father's Day.
Everything about Father's Day is completely ridiculous. The concept, the gore, the acting, the writing, the FX work, the imagery, it goes beyond pushing the envelope to shattering the bounds of decency. The story about a one-eyed vigilante who joins forces with a gay hustler and a young priest on a quest to take down a Father-raping serial killer is epic in its scope. This is the kind of film we all expected to see inside all of those VHS boxes with the fabulous artwork but we were so often disappointed by reality. Father's Day delivers the goods, in spades.
This is the kind of film which will split an audience right down the middle. The hardcore dour gorehounds may walk out of Father's Day pissed off that the film, which deals with murder and mutilation, is too light-hearted. There are no two ways around it, Father's Day is a very jokey film, the gore is played for laughs, the script has some extremely deadpan humor, and every time it seems like its going to get serious, something ridiculous happens. In the recent spate of "grindhouse" films that have barreled through theaters and video rental stores, many have suffered from being overly "winky", and playing too much to the nostalgia factor. It can be a major drawback when the films stop being about the story, and spend too much time showing you how much they know about older exploitation faves. However, Father's Day does it right, and is similarly successful in its tributary efforts to Black Dynamite. Both filmmakers love the films they reference, but don't forget that they have a story to tell.
This latest screening at Texas Frightmare Weekend, my second viewing of this film, was jam packed with a crowd who was exactly the opposite of the grumplestiltskins in the previous paragraph. We were all there to have fun, and, goddammit, fun was had! The crowd cheered, laughed, and gasped at all the right moments. The gore set pieces, many of which among the most gruesome I've ever seen, and all done in house by Astron-6's FX guru, led to some incredulous reactions in the convention hall, which I'm sure was the intention. Just when you think the camera is going to cut and not show you what happens next, a hypodermic needle enters a very sensitive spot very graphically. Astron-6 are the slaves of their art, and while they may not make the most marketable films, they certainly are on top of the heap in this realm.
Typically, even in my most effusive reviews, I'll point out a few flaws, just to show that I'm not a shill for anyone, but I'm having a hard time coming up with anything this time. The first time I saw this film back in February at the historic Texas Theatre, the crowd was small, and not terribly emotive. I think that this made the film feel a little longer than it needed to be at 99 minutes, however, seeing the film with an appreciative audience made it absolutely fly by. An argument could be made regarding the necessity of certain scenes in the film, however, attempting to edit a film like Father's Day for pacing is a kind of missing the point. The humor is all in the extra bits. I appreciated every joke all over again, and they all landed with the audience exactly as they were meant to. This film is a giant success for the Astron-6 team.
With any luck, I'll be reviewing the Blu-ray edition of the film in a few weeks, and I cannot wait to see it again. I'm giving serious thought to setting up a small viewing party with like-minded folks because this is really a film that gets so much better with a supportive crowd. It's amazing what a talented group of hungry, passionate filmmakers can do with $10,000. It makes all of those multi-bazillion dollar blockbusters look like the colossal wastes of money they really are. Support Astron-6 and Father's Day. If ever there was a Twitch friendly film family, these guys are it!
What a complicated release to review.
Father's Day was initially slated to release during Father's Day week back in June, however, due to some behind the scenes drama that date vaporized and its actual street date was pushed back to July. Soon after the June date was jettisoned, news came out via a press release from Troma that the proposed massive pile of extras we expected had been severely gutted with no explanation given. Click here to read my grumpy post about that news.
The very next day came news of the trailer for Astron 6's newest project, No Sleep No Surrender, a tell-all, behind-the-scenes feature length documentary about the making of Father's Day. If ever there was a chance of Troma and Astron 6 patching it up, I think the content of this trailer pretty much 86'd that idea. Apparently, this was one of the items that Troma expected to have for their release, but when Astron 6 tried to negotiate, they were told "no dice". The only extras listed on the release at that time were two brief (less than 5 minutes total) deleted scenes and a trailer, but that was only the beginning...
A week later Troma sent out a revised specs list which turned the 2 disc Blu-ray/DVD combo into a 4 disc Blu-ray/DVD/CD limited edition. It all seemed a little fishy at the time, and now that I've seen the finished product, it's clear that this was a last ditch effort to save face on Troma's part, and the result seems very half-assed and unplanned.
What apparently happened was that, as a result of Troma and Astron 6's falling out, much of the planned extra material got pulled. Troma seems to have begun pressing discs before the grass roots uproar behind the release's neutering started. As a last ditch effort, they seem to have pressed an additional DVD for extras (which total no more than about an hour of largely previously released material) and slapped together a partial soundtrack CD to go with it. The result is a severely compromised release that puts me in kind of a tight spot. I was one of the first people on the 'net to take Troma to task over this release, and it seems as though my protest was a tiny cog in the wheel of anti-Troma sentiment that resulted, and you know what, I'm okay with that.
Enough history, here's what to expect:
The Blu-ray of Father's Day looks and sounds just as it should. I've seen the film twice theatrically, and considering that all of the theatrical screenings have been from Blu-ray in the first place, it's hard to find fault with the A/V on the disc. The film is heavily filtered and faux damaged, which helps to hide it's digital origins and allows it to feel much more like an '80s style exploitation film. The audio, unfortunately, isn't as great as the release features only a lossy Dolby Stereo mix. I have no interest in a fake surround mix, but at least it could've been DTS-HD MA, right?
The extras. Well, the Blu-ray disc has no extras, and the DVD copy of the film features only two brief deleted scenes and a trailer, totaling less than 6 minutes of total content. The "bonus" disc, however, contains only about 30 minutes of unreleased material, all of which features Lloyd Kaufman pimping the film at various conventions and local premieres. In addition to that, we get two previously released Astron 6 shorts, Cool Guys and Lazer Ghosts (both awesome and both available on their compilation DVD), a couple of FX featurettes that are available on Astron 6's YouTube page, a neat little video piece on the creation of the amazing poster featuring Tom "The Dude Designs" Hodge (also on the YouTube page), some trailers (YouTube), a couple of photo slideshows, and about half an hour of completely unrelated Troma pimping for their other releases that has nothing to do with Father's Day. On top of all of that, the disc opens with an "intro" from Lloyd Kaufman in which he slings shit at Astron 6 calling them "misguided", not exactly the kind of distributor I'd want on my side. It's kind of a mess.
What is, of course, most notable is what we don't get. No Sleep, No Surrender is not there, the promised audio commentary is not there, and there is no behind the scenes footage of any kind anywhere in this 4 disc set. Sure, there's a soundtrack CD which doesn't include the most memorable music from the film, but instead features some of the cheesy '80s sounding tunes that were used as incidental music, but the theme song is gone. This is a seriously flawed release of a seriously incredible film, only made more frustrating by the fact that we've had little tastes of what we're missing. Such a disappointment.
I don't know what to say. Normally it's easy for my to make some kind of a recommendation about these things, but here I'm having trouble. As much as I think Father's Day belongs in every Twitch reader's collection, the thought of suggesting that anyone pay money for this release makes the bile rise into my esophagus. I guess if you can find it used, I'd pick it up that way. Whatever you do, find a way to see Father's Day.
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