FEARNET Movie Review: 'Father's Day'



father's dayNobody ever expected the Quentin Tarantino / Robert Rodriguez experiment known as Grindhouse (aka "Death Proof" / "Planet Terror") to spawn a resurgence in the popularity of the grungy exploitation flicks of the 1970s -- which makes sense, because it didn't. But one thing Grindhouse did accomplish was to point out that there was still a small but loyal audience for garish genre flicks that combine modern filmmaking tricks with cheesy old '70s nostalgia.
Grindhouse led to films like Machete and Hobo With a Shotgun, and now those films have inspired a few more indie lunatics to try their hand at exploitation homage. Not all of them are successful, but the five-man Canadian team known as Astron-6 has pulled off something pretty cool... even if it's the sort of "cool" that only 5% of the movie buff audience will appreciate. Equal parts lurid shocker with outrageous gore and sly satire with an actual sense of fanboy sweetness beneath all the ugliness, Father's Day is both an homage to and a satire of everything from low-budget exploitation obscurities to the best (worst?) of the Troma flicks you can vaguely remember from your adolescence.
Seemingly tailor-made for an aging genre geek like me (Father's Day doesn't just satirize slasher movies; it also parodies film scores), the flick may come across as stunningly schizophrenic to others. When it's focusing on its central story -- a crazed lunatic is raping, murdering, and eating fathers -- the film has a sweaty and graphically disturbing tone -- but when Father's Day deals with the backwards antics of its three heroes it seems more like a jocular (if still supremely vulgar) collection of comedy sketches thrown together by some pretty funny Canadians. Certainly the film is convoluted on purpose -- it even briefly switches over to a promo for a cheesy sci-fi film to humorous effect -- but there are jokes about demonic incest -- and then there are leering sequences in which our villain mutilates his own penis in rather realistic fashion.
I'm with the Astron-6 guys on all of their bad taste and shock value humor but those penis-slicing scenes (and one or two others) make me wonder what exactly the joke is supposed to be. On the other hand, just as the slightly overlong movie starts to draw to a close, the three leads (Adam Brooks, Matthew Kennedy, and Conor Sweeney) start to display a legitimately strong chemistry when they're onscreen together. Brooks, as the disgraced and reluctant hero known as Ahab, gets most of the laughs early on but Kennedy (as a young priest) and Sweeney (as the son of a recent murder victim) get funnier the longer the movie runs.
For all its ugly jokes and frequent carnage, what one takes away from Father's Day, oddly enough, is a childlike affection for those late-night double features you snuck down to enjoy as a kid. Father's Day sometimes feels like a greatest hits compilation of "forbidden fruit" movie moments, and if a few of them don't work, that's fine. There's a lot here that does. Again, it's rare to find a flick in which the musical score is somehow funny. That's how I know these guys know their b-movies. (Astron-6 also has a flick called Manborg out now. It's a lot less nasty but still pretty fun.)

Horror fans will undoubtedly appreciate the hardcore gore effects and the clever nods to films and genres we know and love, but Father's Day is most assuredly a comedy first and foremost. Sometimes a farce, often a satire, always in bad taste, and occasionally sort of brilliant. 

Warning: do not watch this movie with your dad.