A common question around cult film circles the past decade (+) is, "When are we going to find the next big horror auteur?" Prospects have been pretty middling. Are Eli Roth, Alexandre Aja, or Brad Anderson really the closest we're going to come to the next Cronenberg, Romero, or Fulci? *Weeps*
Getting even less love is the exploitation film. Its sort of natural as its really a porous genre of subgenres, encompassing everything from biker flicks to blacksploitaiton. A product of the late 60's/early 70's disillusionment and the emergence of mature film ratings, the sleaze genre all but died out when low budget film makers switched their focus to teen sex comedies, softcore, action films, and the like throughout the 80's. Tarantino and Rodrigueiz's Grindhouse teasingly opened the door to an exploitation resurgence before it's box-office fizzle, but one can still find guys like Run Bitch Run's director/co-writer Jospeh Guzman carrying the torch. Guzman's film is aiming to ape the rape-revenge classics like Thriller: A Cruel Picture and I Spit On Your Grave and it wears those influences so obviously, characters might as well have Ms .45 posters hanging on their walls.
Two polar opposite Catholic schoolgirls, the naughty Rebecca (Christina DeRosa) and the pious Catherine (Cheryl Lyone), are selling bibles door to door on the very wrong side of town. They stumble onto the whorehouse/drug den of Lobo (Peter Tahoe). Its the kind of joint where the main prostitute is hatchet-faced Marla (Ivet Corvea), a gal who masturbates with a plunger in the filthy bathroom and takes a knife to the gut of any greasy John's she disagrees with. Rebecca and Catherine knock on the door just as Lobo is killing a girl that betrayed him and within minutes the girls are taken hostage by Lobo, Marla, and stuttering weenie Clint.
The typical scenario follows. While Lobo takes off to ditch the body of the Judas whore and sell the girls car (the junkyard lowlifes want both, the car to repaint and sell and the body to defile), Marla and Clint proceed to torture and violate the church-girls. Rebecca gets offed, and Catherine is drug out to the woods where Lobo plays his favorite game of "Find 'em and Fuck 'em." Left for dead, Catherine rises for the been there, seen that, third act violent payback, donning a nurses uniform and backtracking to Lobo, Marla, and the rest while leaving a bloody wake behind her.
Run Bitch Run does a good job with capturing a throwback 70's veneer and sleazy tone. During the girls opening bible-selling bit they encounter many a scuzzbucket and its enough to make you forget that it doesn't make much sense two Catholic schoolgirls are sent out alone to sell bibles door-to-trailer park door. Even the porno being played in the whorehouse is reel-to-reel. The films most winning element has to be in Cheryl Lyone. With her dirty blonde hair, soulful, milky eyes, pouty lips, thin nose, and small but buxom frame, she looks like a vampish Sissy Spacek. Within Lyone, they really found a perfect vessel for their compassionate heart of the film. Without her performance to turn to, it would just be a bunch of blatantly offensive characters and actions not worth 80 minutes of anyone's time.
Problem is, the rest isn't really all that great. Like so many genre loving film makers, Guzman seems to only get capture the shock of exploitation films, not the, admittedly threadbare, subtext that made the for the most memorable examples of the genre, like Last House on the Left or Fight For Your Life. David Hess isn't creepy-cool because of the nasty things he does in Last House..., Hitch-Hike, etc, its the charming alpha male way he does it. Likewise, the girls religion is just there as an affectation- Catholic girls are hot *drool*- and that's about it. They could have expounded the creeps and courted controversy playing off that religious side but instead its just there as window dressing. So, while there's torture via Russian Roulette, rapes a plenty, necrophilia, drug use, machete sodomy, and a pair of tits out every five minutes or so, the story limps from shock to shock with production quality that further distracts. I'm all for the nastiness, I just want it with a tad more color in the characters or plotting.
The supporting cast is game but are playing rudimentary genre characters stuck in scenes that often to pad time, basely churn the stomach, or manage both at the same time. Guzman's direction is pretty messy, given to lots of perpetually low angles, medium/tight close-ups, shallow focus, and gratuitous fading to black. I swear, Guzman likes fade-to-black more than Lucas likes wipes. I understand low budget hurdles, like being short on time and locations, probably didn't help Guzman, but you still need some basic composition skills and enough material to hopefully make for a smoother series of edits.
The DVD: Vicious Circle Films
The non-anamorphic widescreen image is suitably rough around the edges. Plagued with dull gain, low contrast levels, muted colors, and some motion blurring, I guess one can mostly chalk it up as forgivable. If you have high standards, you probably aren't going to rent an out of nowhere film titled Run Bitch Run. Rough production
and transfer quality just comes with the territory of checking out a no-budget exploitation feature.
The subtitle free, 2-channel English language track was a real mess. It really seems to suffer from the usual low budget film stumbles, so lets bear that in mind. Overall the mix is just muddy, music and dialogue often fusing into a confused marriage. There are also some bad bits of dialogue recording and post-dubbing that are so awash in external noise its hard to hear the actors distinctly. In particular, Peter Tahoe's low growl is often lost and it really hinders his performance. I can only wonder what that must be like: get paid peanuts, give it your all as a decent generic sleazeball baddie, only to half half your dialogue sound like you were deep inside a chasm.
The score is pretty terrible. I mean this both in terms of the audio recording and the compositions. The score, which features a lot of synth & bass, and noodling
reverb/vibrato/wah-wah drenched guitar is just plain repetitive and gives the film a real lack of motion and punch.
The provided screener was for the film only.
I'd love nothing more than to see a great exploitation film maker emerge from a pretty stagnant genre film scene. Guzman's Run Bitch Run has many winning elements in trying to capture that old school tone and he found a gem in his leading lady, but unfortunately its one of those films that seems to constantly fight agaisnt itself. A simple story muddled by clumsy direction and unimaginative scoring. Wily performers given perfunctory characters. All the surface elements of sleaze, shock, and gratuity with no soul or explosive energy underneath it. Worth a looksee for those interested in underground film, but otherwise not much to relight those ever-dimming exploitation fires.