North Carolina native Charles Cullen ought to be a hero (if not exactly a role model) for anyone making underground/independent movies. Operating completely outside the box built by talent, training, financial backing and commercial appeal, Cullen has spent the last ten years producing, directing, writing, and starring in a double fistful of action/comedies (I think that’s what they are, anyway) that really must be seen to be believed. If you can imagine the hyperreal gore and redneck twang of H.G. Lewis, spliced with the wild improvisation and psychedelic stylings of Ray Dennis Steckler, and flavored liberally with the brash incompetence and creative passion of Ed Wood, you might be able to approximate a general idea. (And if you can’t imagine that, turn off your computer, and go catch up on your homework.)
Cullen is definitely an acquired taste; the good news is, this 1998 feature, now available on DVD from Sub Rosa, is the best place to acquire it. (The second best place to start is “The Dead Have Risen,” especially if you dig zombies.) Cullen plays a bounty hunter named Super Badass (like, you know, Super Man, only, you know, he’s a Badass) who dresses like some kind of homeless redneck drug addict and spends a good deal of the movie hunting down and blowing the hell out of a series of semi-costumed villains and criminals (my favorite is Bucko the Clown, a child killer who drives a black flame-striped Volkswagen). In his spare time, Super Badass pursues his hobbies, which include heavy drinking, extensive experimentation with hallucinogens, and filming a documentary on the pigeons around his apartment building. (Yes, I typed that right.) In the movie’s final sequence, we see an older, wiser Super Badass hanging out in Portugal drinking shroom juice with a puppet guy, where his archnemesis, The Boogieman, tracks him down for a final shootout (The Puppet Man says, “It’s High fuckin’ Noon!”)
I guess there’s not much else to say about this movie, except to tell you how unbelievably funny it is. (What can you really say about a movie in which the climactic sequence allows the hero’s death scene to be interrupted by two full minutes, in black and white, of an African American preacher talking about Armageddon?) This totally if not sublimely ridiculous pile of nonsense is – yes – unbelievably funny. Cullen’s work tends to be wildly uneven, but that’s not the case with this one – I laughed so hard, I just about busted open, like one of Cullen’s onscreen victims. Nobody else makes this flavor, and like I said, it’s not for everyone. If it’s for you, by now, you know who you are.