Go-Kart Films is a company whose releases, almost each and every one of which, have intrigued me. With such tremendously named titles as Operation Midnight Climax, Tweeked and FROGGG!, these films just beg to be watched. My first experience with the company, Ball Of Wax, was a less than stellar experience, but how could a movie called The Thrillbillys not be required viewing? Sadly, I was about to find out.
The Thrillbillys wants so badly to be a 60's Southern Exploitation flick, à la Hershell Gordon Lewis' Moonshine Mountain or 2,000 Maniacs you can practically taste it. Somewhere among the shoe-string budget, the ready, willing and unable actors, the 'psychobilly' soundtrack, the endless fade-ins and outs, there lies an interesting kernel of an idea: That omnipresent torch-bearer for the economic superiority of the South, Super Great Mart (read: Walmart), isn't run by a Southern family at all, but has instead been under the control of a group of low-down, no-good Yankee lawyers since the day its revered founder passed away. Super Great Mart's are popping up everywhere, driving decent, hard-working Southerners out of business with their low prices and in-store restaurants. When Granny Cole's still is bulldozed to make way for a new store, it starts a series of events that will force the South to rise again!
Ok, so maybe that is overstating things just a bit, but a few Southerners do rise up out of their corn-mash induced haze to fire hot lead at what they believe to be the new breed of carpet-bagger ruining the South. Dodger Cole has just been released from prison, where she has just spent the last four years for a crime apparently involving her now deceased husband and some high-powered explosives. She sets her sights on getting back to what she loves best, amateur racing (the right way: figure eight, not roundy round), hooks up with her brother Wes and makes a plan to head to Texas. Unfortunately, the destruction of said still prevents them from selling the moonshine to pay for the supplies they'd need to get back onto the amateur racing circuit in the first place.
With friends, neighbors and relatives all feeling the crunch from Super Great Mart coming into their area, the Cole Brothers, with youngest brother, Baby George in tow, decide to take a stand against the Yankee corporation that continues to make a profit off of the blood, sweat and tears of hard-working Southern men and women. They become outlaws and local celebrities to boot, with the Voice of the South, Dixie's Official Newspaper, The Seceder, chronicling their every deed, namely liberating cash from several convenience stores and causing a whole mess o' trouble. Sadly, the whole thing just falls flat. An amateur script filmed with amateur actors and some very amateurish FX (although a car-trunk decapitation is pretty impressive) can only entertain for so long.
Still, I do admire the filmmaker's DIY spirit and there are some memorable lines ("BLOOD POSSUM!", "Everyone wants to be Hank Williams… but no one wants to die.") even if you can barely hear what people are saying half the time due to poor delivery and equally poor sound recording. Patterson Hood of The Drive-By Truckers has a quote right on the front of the case ("I love your movie and you can quote me any time you like!"). Now while I love The Drive-By Truckers Southern Rock Opera and would recommend it to just about anyone, The Thrillbillys doesn't quite measure up.
Picture: The Thrillbillys, is presented in a 1.85:1 widescreen presentation. This movie was shot on film, which is a rarity these days, and has a rough and grainy hue similar to the exploitation films it tries to emulate.
Audio: There is a 2.0 channel Dolby Digital Stereo Track, which sounds like crap most of the time. However, there is a pretty kickin' soundtrack of psychobilly stomp and Redneck rock from the likes of The Drive-By Truckers, Trailer Bride, Angry Jonny and the Killbillies, Lancaster County Prison and more. Yee-Ha!
Extras: For an indie feature, Go-Kart films has provided some nice Extras including a commentary track, outtakes and trailers for other Go-Kart Films.
Conclusion: Even with the disappointment that is The Thrillbillys, I'm still not giving up on Go-Kart Films. I have some more movies from them with which to make up my mind, but looking at their catalogue, it seems that their documentaries are certainly worth looking into. Both Horns and Halos, about the unauthorized George W. Bush biography, "Fortunate Son," and The Dream of Sparrows, which is the first Iraqi film since Saddam Hussein was ousted from power, look promising. So while I'm not about to write this great little company off yet, there still isn't a whole lot for me to recommend this DVD. I guess I could paraphrase Jeff Foxworthy and say, "You might be a Redneck if you like this movie." Skip It.