Usually when a film opens with a disclaimer of sorts, I find that it does more in trying to establish a mood than actually comment on anything within the film. With 12 Rounds for the Loaded, which opens with “Warning: This video contains highly offensive and obscene imagery. Nobody should watch it. But it rules. Enjoy,” the disclaimer is pretty much dead right. This short is offensive and obscene, and arguably it shouldn’t be seen by anybody. But it does have its filmmaking merit, if no heart (well, figurative heart; there’s lots of literal heart, and the blood to be found in said organ, all over this one).
But here’s the framing to the splatterfest: Logan O’Brien (Bob Sergi) stops off at a local watering hole with his young son, Junior (Lucas Fleming, Jr). The depraved saloon, known as “Cockhead,” is full of strange patrons and an energetic barkeep named B-Truck (Alex E. Edwards). Unbeknownst at first, but soon painfully clear, they picked the wrong bar to visit.
This is the third short film I’ve seen from Bloody Hammer Films, and whereas the other two (No Thanks and Moonsmilers) attempted to hang a little extra narrative flair to frame the brutality to eventually commence (Native American Revenge in No Thanks, a pharmaceutical drug gone wrong in Moonsmilers), 12 Rounds for the Loaded is just mean-spirited sadism all around. The “Cockhead” bar in this short film makes the Titty Twister in From Dusk Till Dawn look like a Denny’s, and there’s little to the narrative other than “watch how gross, disgusting and violent we can get.”
Which would be fine, if this were a shorter film. This may still be under twenty minutes, but there’s a lot of repetition to it, and that’s a problem. The initial establishment of the different tortures and violence around the bar is intense and shocking. And then things get a little bit more disturbing and disgusting, with the filmmakers elevating the intensity even more. But then it becomes repetitive, as we check in with this victim, or that torture, or the bartender jumping around. The violence stops upping the ante, it all peaks too soon for the film’s duration. Instead of shock, its a numbness which undermines the film’s climax.
And maybe there’s something to be said about humanity that a short film can go so over-the-top that it invokes desensitisation in the viewer in less than twenty minutes. Maybe it’s just something to be said about me. Either way, though, there’s a momentum to the film that falls right off, and it’s a shame because there was the opportunity to hit the audience with such shock and severity that the only real reaction would be a disturbed stupor. And that moment does exist in the film, but then the film just keeps going and going, and that intensity fades. If boredom enters in, or the audience checks out, there’s a problem. Apparently there’s a seven minute cut that was submitted for the 2013 48 Hour Film Project in Boston, and I wonder if that solves much of what I’m griping about.
Still, as with other Bloody Hammer Films’ productions, credit is due for the practical effects work, and the appreciation and utilization of an exploitation and grindhouse-friendly aesthetic. The film also doesn’t shy away from any violent notion that may pop into the filmmakers’ heads, even if that includes ripping the guts out of a young boy. It’s all done in such an outrageous fashion, however, that it plays more like a cartoon from Hell than something to give you nightmares; it’s a carnival ride, not a traumatic experience. I think, similar to how the effects-work was done in A Serbian Film, that it grounds the audience to see things so irrationally and overtly insane as to appear fake, because it points out that it’s surreal and not, say, a snuff film.
Overall, of the Bloody Hammer Films I’ve seen, this is the one that seemed most interested in just getting to the gruesome over establishing much of a narrative. If it does have a saving grace, it’s that it does evoke the classic Western, utilizing motorcycles over horses, and takes the local saloon and makes it a portal to Hell. I liked the genre-play, and it hints that the filmmakers are trying to do a bit more than just gross you out. At the same time though, if the filmmakers can hit on a great story and couple it with their insane violence and gore aesthetic, they might have a masterpiece on their hands. They’re not there yet, but you can see the potential.
This film was submitted for review through our Submission for Review system. If you have a film you’d like us to see, and we aren’t already looking into it on our own, you too can utilize this service.