Reading his resume, you'd never guess that Aiden Dillard would eventually become a filmmaker. He was born in North Carolina (in Durham, the home of the Bulls) and always pursued the outsider areas of art. He loved punk rock, and thrived at creating perverted still lives. When he eventually sought to educate himself, he ended up at the Cooper Union Art School in New York. After graduation, several dead-end jobs followed. Having tasted the joys of moviemaking while in college (his initial creation was the strange satirical student film The Battle Between Burps and Farts), he hooked up with designer Joe Holtzman and his Camp Nest compound and conceived the anti-drug dreamscape Meat Weed Madness. Thanks to the ongoing efforts of Troma, the true champion of independent film, we get to witness this weirdness in all its fetid feverishness…and it is truly one unhinged ride.
While driving along a country road one day, Jessie Bell is assaulted by a bumpkin in a shark car. Trying to avoid the crazy driver, she accidentally hits a purple cow. Hoping to find help, she stumbles onto Meatweed Manor, and its purveyor, Lord Meat Weed. He offers her sanctuary, and his family story. It seems that the Meat Weeds have found a way to combine animal protein with pot to make the strongest smoke in the valley. While she's not interested in sampling the herb, our bodacious Bell is convinced to stay.
Soon, three young gals from the local high school show up. They've escaped their perverted teacher and headed out into the hills for some fun. The minute they run into Lord Meat Weed and his joints of joy, they forget all about their ordeal and get good and naked. As they spend time traipsing around the estate in the buff, a strange bull creature stalks them, one by one. After being hypnotized by a painting in the home, each of our naughty naked lasses are harpooned by the beast's oversized doobie. Naturally, they are destined to be hookah fodder. When Jessie Bell learns that she may be the reincarnation of the monster's momma, and ordained to become a member of the Meat Weed family, she tries to escape. But no one is impervious to the lewd allure of the mighty herb, and if she's not careful, Jessie too will be part of the Meat Weed Madness.
Meat Weed Madness is insane. Instead of R, or NC-17, the MPAA should draft a new rating: 'WTF'. This mind-blowing cinematic bender is one part David Lynch, one part John Waters, two parts anti-drug PSA and about a dozen parts screaming naked chicks. If that seems like more facets than a single film can fathom, don't worry. Writer/director Aiden Dillard is accustomed to warping reality. His vision is based in exploitation experiences from the past (Meat Weed often plays like a spleef based interpretation of Herschell Gordon Lewis' Two Thousand Maniacs) and slasher films from the '70s and '80s. Inside such a strange dynamic, he has no problem overloading the narrative with lesbianism, gore, Civil War shout outs, white trash wantonness, monsters, inbred retards, Satanic rituals and talking oil paintings. Indeed, Dillard may be the first filmmaker who avoids the whole 'kitchen sink' concept of cinema. Instead, his is more of a tainted toilet bowl approach. While his overall message may be mangled in a lot of stream of consciousness creativity, it also means that this excursion into the world of cannibal cannabis is a little hard to fathom at times.
No, make that IMPOSSIBLE to fathom most of the time. Meat Weed Madness is like a potentially talented child with advanced ADD. The brat is so busy bouncing off the walls, yelling out epithets and peeking up ladies' skirts that you'd never know he had a real saleable skill. Sometimes, the movie's narrative is so entertaining and engaging that you instantly get drawn into Dillard's world. In other instances, the scenes are so excruciating that you just wish your already overloaded senses would hurry up and shut down completely. During the course of Act 1, three local tarts arrive at the Meat Weed estate and decide that the most productive thing they can do is drop their drawers and screech like banshees. As their 7-11 fed bodies undulate with excess blubber, they twist their vocal chords into a Deliverance rape drone. Finding such a mixture of skin and screaming mesmerizing, Dillard hangs on it for what seems like hours. Sure, naked chicks put clothed butts in the seats, but who could possibly find these randy Roseannes that fetching, especially when their vocabulary is solely made up of decibel defying whoops and hollers.
Similarly, Dillard gives us one of the dopiest, most delightful ideas for a Civil War reenactment ever. Instead of your typical North vs. South standoff, we get rubber chicken football. That's right; the corny gag prop that dozens of Catskill's comics relied on to get big laughs is tossed about in a semi-serious stance by the Meat Weeds to scorn that previous war of Yankee aggression. And yet, even then, the director finds a way to fudge things up. Instead of creating something substantial, with rules and regulations we can follow, it's another example of filmmaking via free for all. Unidentified individuals run and jump, smacking into each other in purposeless pratfalling. Watching people plummet to the ground may seem like a funny idea, but slapstick is built on more than just the physical - there has to be some COMEDY in the mix as well. Sadly, many of Dillard's most hectic ideas seem to be missing that one foundational element that helps them click - either as humor or as horror. About the only place he succeeds purely is in the realm of realized eccentricity. Without appearing forced or phony our Meat Weed family is one crazed collection of inbred idiosyncrasy. From their dada-esque home to the Southern fried stereotypical manner in which they speak, we sure get a sense of Confederates lost in their own loopy time.
Indeed, there is a lot to enjoy about this otherwise flawed freak out. Any film that offers up a papier mache cow as a realistic interpretation of a bovine (complete with stop motion animation movement) has to be appreciated for such kitschy chutzpah. Then there are the various uses of CGI in the film. While nothing more than standard photoshopped elements manipulated by computer to add a little arcane zest to several sequences, they are still a welcome addition to the overall artistic approach to the film. Naturally, this reviewer would be remiss to not mention again the abundant nudity in the film. If you like your honeys more on the heifer side of sexy, then you'll get a gratuitous kick out of the perpetually nekkid talent traipsing through the scenes. Certainly, the centerpiece of the story - a steer headed stalker named Bullpockey with an overly large lit joint as his killing device - is rather ridiculous, about as believable as the rest of the F/X in the movie. Yet we sense a thematic resonance behind Dillard's dementia, a real visual strategy to what others would view as cinematic stumbling. Meat Weed Madness may not be the most coherent work of outsider filmmaking, but it is decidedly original. It's also a stunning example of how excess leads to irritation, not innovation.
Presented in a 1.33:1 full screen transfer that just screams camcorder creationism, the colorful, detailed image does sell a great deal of Meat Weed Madness's picturesque perversity. The hyper-stylized approach, filled with saturated hues and artistic set designs is well served by Troma's treatment of the visuals. Some of the editing is sloppy, and the compositions can be chaotic, but this is still a good looking print of a film forged on the lunatic fringe of the medium.
Sadly, the audio is awful. Though the credits boast a sound engineer and crew, the result is a shrill, distorted disaster any time the movie pitches above a simple conversation. The shrieks of the naked hillbilly babes will burrow into your brain like so many mealworms, and the channels shudder with the lack of moderated Dolby Digital Stereo sonics. Again, the dialogue is easily discernible and the musical moments are well mixed. But overall, this is an aural nightmare, like listening to an ancient AM tuner through blown speakers.
Troma treats Meat Weed Madness to a full onslaught of special features, beginning with an audio commentary from director Dillard himself. Reading his material off pre-prepared papers and rambling like a stuck pig on speed most of the time, this is an interesting alternative narrative track. While he gives a lot of production info, explaining his lack of money but wealth of ideas, there are also times when he slips into what can best be called 'Meat Weed' mode and starts riffing right along with the characters. It makes for a mesmerizing listen. Also fun is the standard Lloyd Kaufman introduction. Speaking from the setting of the Tromadance Film Festival, Kaufman calls on the director 'via satellite' and discusses the film with him. It's a refreshing change of pace from the normal sexual innuendo filled preview.
Next up is a short film entitled The Battle Between the Burps and Farts, and its not as simple as the title makes it out to be. Lloyd Kaufman proudly proclaims that this first effort from Dillard was the only film in the history of Tromadance to be resoundingly booed by everyone is attendance - and it's not hard to see why. This is a weird-ass sci-fi romp revolving around a girl with a gift of gas (anally, that is) who is kidnapped by a wizard and taught to channel her internal wind orally. She is then raped by the leader of the Burps, regains her talent for farting, and lots of lame lesson are learned - well, at least that's one way of viewing this excuse for cinema. In truth, The Battle Between Burps and Farts is excruciating to sit through. It's loud, abrasive and more or less pointless. Still, it does offer a window into Dillard's designs as a filmmaker. Along with trailers for both films, and the standard array of Troma-based merchandising, this is a decent selection of complementary content.
While there are far better examples of the arcane auteur theory in Troma's ever expanding catalog (the efforts of Giuseppe Andrews, the recently released Dumpster Baby) Meat Weed Madness deserves at least a single chance to chaff your hinder with its blatant bizarreness. While it doesn't warrant a higher commendation, there is more here to enjoy than a simple rental might suggest. Therefore, a rating of Recommended is easily offered. It balances the positives while warning of the numerous negatives. Rumor has it that Dillard will be diving back into the Meat Weed universe with a sequel, to start shooting this August (2006). It will be interesting to see what he does with the narrative, since he more or less covered all the psychotic scenarios he could the first time around. Fans of surrealism and the bewildering will truly enjoy this shredded slice of slopstick. Others will feel they've endured the cinematic equivalent of a lobectomy and rue the day they opted to visit this video. They say that marijuana is a gateway drug. If that is indeed the case, then Meat Weed Madness may be an entry into a brand new world of homemade filmmaking. Or it could just be a big piece of crap.
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