When Henrique Couto, producer of “Faces of Schlock”, handed me the DVD he imparted on me this little secret: “The title makes it bullet-proof, man. If people like it, they’re surprised because it’s called “Faces of Schlock”. If they don’t, they say, ‘What’d we expect? It’s called “Faces of Schlock”!’”
And you know what, it’s true! Because “Faces of Schlock” is a home-brewed anthology consisting of three short films made by young filmmakers at the beginning of what may actually be very long and fruitful careers, strung together by padded-out but usually funny segments featuring a horror-host with the unfortunate name of “Slutpira”. The running gag throughout the “Slutpira” sections is that the hostess is being forced to work unfunny breast jokes into her introductions and she’s constantly bitching at the off-camera producers about the material. You wouldn’t think that this bit would work continuously—and you’d be right, but it works more often than not, thanks to the easy charisma of the unnamed actress.
As for the movies themselves, the movie starts off with “Buttonhead”, from critic and self-styled “movie hobbyist” Andrew Shearer. It tells the story about Tori (Monical Puller) who is beaten nearly to death by her redneck boyfriend. Fortunately, a quick-thinking lesbian nurse saves her life by doing a quick clitoris-to-frontal-lobe procedure (I’m not quite sure of the medical term for this). Now the nurse and her friends are faced with another problem: Tori is now a nearly-retarded and overlystimulated basket case who humps everything that… well, moving or not, she mounts it.
For those in the know, Shearer is notoriously reclusive about his work. To my knowledge, this is the first of his short films that he’s allowed to be sold to the general public, which in itself is commendable. It’s not often that an artist is humble enough to insist that his work isn’t ready for a paying audience. And while “Buttonhead” is certainly raw and has a number of technical faults, what makes it work is the earnestness of the cast and its director. There’s no winking at the camera, and Puller is just remarkable as the “brain-enhanced” Tori, unafraid to look silly in the process.
Similar things can be said about Couto’s own movie, marking the second segment, “Diagnoses [sic] Terror”. This tells the strange story of a young man named Ron (Couto himself) who is slowly succumbing to the influences of a late-night televangelist (played by avant guarde filmmaker Andrew M. Copp). During the course of several nights, Ron begins to clean up his act by working out, eating healthy, and attempting a plantonic relationship with his eager-for-sex girlfriend. At the same time, he is also compelled to kill those around him that he (and the reverend) decree sinful.
It’s a bizarre little movie of enforced morality that, again, has its technical drawbacks (and a couple of self-conscious actors), but since everyone is intent on taking the material seriously, it works very well. Much of it is thanks to one-man-show Couto who is comfortable and relaxed on camera.
The final movie, “Neckbrace” is a little trying on the patience, pace-wise, but actually winds up being pretty rewarding on its own as well. A beleaguered “boi of the punk rock persuasion” (their description, not mine) loses his job and is immediately injured by a bully and winds up in a neck brace. This sends him spiraling into despair, leading him to buy an ungodly amount of drugs from a fast-talking dealer. The drugs send him into a boundless, murderous rage that he then takes out on the bully and his friends, leading to a magnificent blood bath.
As with the other two, “Neckbrace” is the result of hard-work and rough talent of the filmmaker, in this case Chris LaMartina. As with the other two, sound is a problem, inexperienced actors pop up, and the video format brings its own limitations. But, again, the problems are never distracting enough to make you abandon watching, particularly if you’re a fan of indie horror/comedy. It’s the earnest intentions that make the whole thing worthwhile.
Nothing in “Faces of Schlock” is earthshattering, but it is a wonderful indication of possibly great movies coming from these three guys in the future. Their hard work is present onscreen—they didn’t just plop a camera down and have their friends run by waving their arms. So I guess I fell into the “pleasantly surprised” category and eagerly await more.