It's about time to stop referring to certain types of film as 'post-modern'. Back when the phrase actually meant something, it was used to define a type of movie that traded on the past while plotting a course for the future. In fact, it indicated a certain cinematic style, a filmmaking forte that relied on both the history and the hindrances of the medium to make up its meaning. Today, none of that really exists. Instead, independent artists are mulling over the medium's memories, plucking out the elements they want to exploit, and randomly tossing them together into mind-blowing motion picture projects. A good example of this approach is the Rocky Horror meets Texas Chainsaw Massacre amusement called Chainsaw Sally. Half of Jimmyo Burril's hilarious horror homage is a rip-snorting riot act of anarchic thrills and body bisecting chills. The other is a reference heavy retread that definitely qualifies for the new cinematic moniker – 'post mimic'.
When she was young, Sally and her brother Ruby were traumatized. A group of escaped mental patients broke into their home and killed their mother and father. Years later, the duo lives in a funky little trailer in the middle of a massive tract of land. Unfortunately, an unscrupulous developer wants the property for himself, and he contacts the only remaining heir – a man named Steve Kellerman – and makes him a hefty proposition. This gets Sally (working as the local librarian) very angry. She likes where she lives and doesn't want to move. Remembering what her Daddy did to save his offspring that fateful night, Papa's Princess pulls out the power tools and opens up a can of Black and Decker whoop ass on anyone that gets in her way. And the best part is, there are never any remains for the police to identify. Sally and Ruby are red blooded cannibals, and they enjoy indulging in human hamburger helper since it also helps to hide their victims. As the land deal draws near, our heroine springs into abattoir action. After all, she's not known as Chainsaw Sally for nothing.
When you decide to call a movie Chainsaw Sally, you better be prepared to deliver on your moniker's macabre meaning. After all, you wouldn't call a film Natalie's Nude Romp through a Lesbian Love-In and then avoid showing us all the sleazy Sappho details, right? Well, part of the problem with this otherwise entertaining fright freak show is that writer/director Jimmyo Burril is limited in the amount of special effects offal he can feature. As with most low budget fare, the financial aspects of the shoot strain even the most ambitious intentions. In essence, there's not a whole lot of chainsaw fu floating around this otherwise terrific tongue in cheek effort, and for those expecting gallons of gore (and Gunner Hanson's return to the blade-brandishing fold) disappointment may be a simple offscreen killing away. While Burril still pours on the sticky red stuff, festooning scenes with lots of body parts and bile, the actual illustration of chainsaw entering victim is saved for a scant few moments near the end. As for the rest of the repugnance, our title character does give one victim a sulphuric acid douche/colonic, and there's lots of throat ripping, head hacking and random vital organ violation. Heck, even the Godfather of Grue – Herschell Gordon Lewis - shows up as a kindly hardware store owner, ever at the ready to give our title character some solid tool time advice.
For schlock aficionados, the best parts of Chainsaw Sally do indeed focus on how our amiable anti-heroine gets her blood and guts groove on. This Maryanne Manson, Gothed up good to maximize her unhinged hotness, is played by Burril's wife April Monique, and she makes for an interesting motion picture lead. She's got the look down pat, far more menacing and memorable than dozens of her dopey Hollywood counterparts. But she is so shy, so subtlety underwhelming as our main maniac that there is something rather endearing about her villainy. It's as if the malformed boy Jason grew up to be a misunderstood Miss with a knack for cleaving the citizenry via hideous horsepower. In addition, she fits in perfectly with her husband's high kitsch conceits. She is someone who lives the lifestyle showcased – both in real life and in the film. Not the killing and corpse eating...at least, one hopes not – but the combination of creepy and campy that permeates Sally and Ruby's doublewide abode. Sure, the look is pure thrift shop chic, a combination of fairy lights, exploitation film posters and random novelties and knickknacks, but April and able acting partner Alec Joseph (in complete Frank-n-furter Wannabe mode) really sell the situation. You never once doubt that this pair put on a batch of popcorn, slip into their Freddy Krueger pajamas, and settle in for a night of local horror host hilarity.
Where Chainsaw Sally goes slightly astray is in the main plot paradigm. Frankly, we could care less about developer Harvey Benton, land owner Steve Kellerman, and attorney/eye candy Cynthia Prescott. While the actors playing these characters are more than capable, each one balancing the needs of the movie with the mediocrity of the material, what we really want is more of Sally and her sissified sibling going gonzo on deserving dimwits. While it would probably eschew the slasher label, Chainsaw Sally really feels like the start of a full blown slice and dice franchise, our heroine hiding her vengeance minded identity behind some beguiling bookworm glasses and a reference desk. In fact, one could easily envision a whole Chainsaw Sally series, our power tool terror taking her carve and cut carnival to as many rural rubes as possible. From this standpoint alone, Burril and his bride deserve a lot of credit. Most homemade filmmakers can't create a compelling baddie, let alone someone you'd want to see over and over again. But Chainsaw Sally and her swishy sidekick of a brother would make a wonderful deadly duo. She's kills 'em – he'll grills 'em. Together, they save many of the movie's more uninteresting moments. Add in Gunner Hanson giving old school Saw fans a reason to rejoice and you've got a wonderfully wicked little film. Sure, it copies dozens of divergent genre efforts, but this is one movie that's proud of its post-mimic leanings. Without them, Chainsaw Sally would be the same old limp fear fest.
Presented in a 1.76:1 anamorphic widescreen image, Chainsaw Sally is not without its sporadic DVD faults. There is a good bit of grain in the night scenes, some underlit moments that are purely the moviemaker's blunder, an overreliance on some post-production optical trickery (camera jitters, odd exposure and timing issues) and the occasional flaring and bleeding that comes with almost all lo-fi transfers. Still, the colors are sharp and the details identifiable. While it's definitely not reference quality, the picture here is presentable and professional.
In staying with what must be the new fad in Indie filmmaking, horror hillbilly rock and roll makes up the vast majority of the soundtrack here. These over-revved rave-ups sure are novel, giving the smattering of punk a good run for its aural amusement. As for the rest of the Dolby Digital Stereo 2.0 soundscape, the dialogue can occasionally get lost in all the camcorder recording ambience, and the foley frequently misses its moments of importance. Still, this is a decent audio package, one that fits comfortably with the majority of the movie's artistic intentions.
Beginning with a full length audio commentary from Burril and his spouse/star, the added content on this DVD is very enlightening. We learn that Sally started off as an Internet presence, helping sell the couple's previous work (a musical macabre called Silver Scream). When fans started asking for a film featuring the horror hostess, Burril quickly came up with this story. Highlighting the problems and pitfalls of making an outsider epic, the couple is clever, sometimes cloying, but always willing to share their secrets to what helps define a good horror comedy. Similarly, the step-by-step Making-of featurette traces Chainsaw Sally from the web to the convention circuit in an excessively informative manner. Toss in interviews with Gunnar Hansen (fun), Herschell Gordon Lewis (always a treat), and a Sally artwork gallery (some incredibly stuff here) and you have a solid set of digital supplements.
For most films and their creators, the 'post-mimic' tag is an albatross, a detrimental demarcation that signals a telling reliance on the efforts of others to manufacture new narrative ideals. But for Jimmyo Burril and his cheery Chainsaw Sally, such a stigma should be more than welcome. It indicates the level of loyalty this director has for the genre, its stars, and the seminal efforts that came before. As a result, what could have been dull and routine ends up exceeding even the most elemental expectations. Granted, there could have been a higher 'power tool to person' quotient, but in the end, Burril delivers enough ancillary entertainment to keep us on board. Earning a well deserved rating of Recommended, this movie will definitely not be everyone's cup of corrupt tea. But if you settle into the jaundiced jive that Burril and his brigade are bringing, you'll find this crazy compendium of cinematic shout-outs to be a hilarious hoot. It does its otherwise craven categorization proud.
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