Doing a parody of B-Movies is a thankless task since the genre itself, with its oversupply of imagination tied in an undersupply of budget, exists as a parodistic parallel universe to mainstream cinema. Indeed, several over-the-top B-parodies such as the infamous “Zombie! Vs. Mardi Gras” and the Texas-based “Barn of the Blood Llama” received hostile responses from critics who just didn’t get the joke and mistook these comedies for the actual B-nonsense they were spoofing.
“Thrill Kill Jack in Hale Manor” is clearly a take-off on shot-on-video B-flicks that it is difficult to understand how many festival organizers and distributors didn’t catch the fun and rejected it out-of-hand. A delightfully silly romp made in 1999 by the triple-team of Mike Aransky, Philip Guerette and Thomas Seymour (the talented Connecticut-based filmmakers whose new dark comedy “Everything Moves Alone” was the highlight of the recent New York International Independent Film & Video Festival), “Thrill Kill Jack in Hale Manor” stirs in all of the wonderfully inane cliches and tricks of the B-genre and serves up a happily hyperactive kick.
Thrill Kill Jack is a mystical, monosyllabic tough-guy entrusted with a powerful hand-made gun crafted around a magical ancient Indian arrowhead. The gun is stolen by Hale, a grandiloquent wizard who runs a freakish mini-empire in a mansion populated by gimps and creeps. Thrill Kill Jack scales the mansion’s walls and finds himself going room to room in search of his weapon, encountering endless threats on his life and sanity behind each new door.
Offering humorous homages to Roger Corman, Larry Buchanan, John Woo and a bit of Hitchcock, the film speeds with the required nervous camerawork, outlandish sound effects and staccato editing one expects from the genre. Vats of acid, drill guns, chained-up prisoners, flashing lights, deadly lasers and wild chase scenes populate the film, all used with the appropriate amount of good humor that gently mocks the wild conventions of this school of filmmaking.
As Thrill Kill Jack, slender Philip Guerette lacks the muscular bulk one associates with B-Movie action stars like Dolph Lundgren or Brian Bosworth, but he offers the right touch of stoic indifference to his hostile surroundings with occasional surprises such as a whimper when a weapon is slapped from his hand or an Oliver Hardy-style slow burn when a bucket of water falls on his head after he pushes through an open door. Thomas Edward Seymour camps it up in the best Vincent Price style as the nefarious Hale, clearly enjoying his miscreancy the way a glutton enjoys a steak.
“Thrill Kill Jack in Hale Manor” is an undiluted, unpretentious joyride which offers a fine diversion. How anyone could not enjoy this little film is a minor mystery.