There is nothing more frustrating - or in some cases, fun - as misplaced passion. There are times when ambitions are so amplified that you either reject everything outright or fall into the rhythms of the creator's obvious fervor. Outsider filmmakers like Damon Packard or Giuseppe Andrews fit this mold, making their own unique cinematic visions without giving a good goddamn what the rest of the artform thinks. They see what they need to see and relate it in ways that have to be experienced, not explained. Then there are the homemade horror buffs like Chris Seaver and Dave Campfield. Fueled by the never-ending fount of scary stuff spewing from VCRs and basic cable over the last few decades, filmmakers like them believe that nothing is better than obvious homages to the creepshow comedies of the past, resulting in such treats as Mulva: Zombie Ass Kicker or Caesar and Otto's Summer Camp Massacre. Now Campfield is back with the slapstick splatter of Caesar and Otto's Deadly Xmas, and while a little less polished than its forebearer, it's still a weird, wonderful experience.
It's Thanksgiving and Caesar (co-writer/director Dave Campfield) is preparing an unusual feast for his list of guests. He's a struggling actor who can't seem to catch a break. In the meantime, his half-brother Otto (Paul Chomicki) hopes to reconnect with the girl from his past that got away. When things don't go so well, the duo end up finding work as holiday characters - read: Santa and his elf - for a weird company called "Xmas Enterprises." There, they meet another employee (Deron Miller) who turns out to be a raving psychopath. Using Caesar's list from his failed party, our nutjob dons his best Kris Kringle garb and goes on a massive killing spree. Naturally, our heroes must try and stop him before the police make the connection between the victims and Caesar's messed up meal.
If Abbot and Costello were two post-modern slackers who spent their youth glued to a TV screen watching every bad horror movie ever made, the results would be something akin to Caesar and Otto's Deadly Xmas. A macabre mixtape mash-up of undeniably delightful '80s tropes tossed together with all the finesse of a fart fondue, this bumbling bit of brilliance is either the greatest deconstruction of home video's lasting legacy on frights fans, or a really, really, really, really, really, really juvenile spoof. Let's face it, any film which features its star as a little kid - albeit rendered via lame greenscreen and the mere miniaturizing of an adult actor - deserved Jerry Lewis accolades. Sure, the story is slipshod and scattered and yes, the cameos can take away from the rest of the movie's ribald spirit, but for the most part, Caesar and Otto's Deadly Xmas delivers. It may not make you fear for your life, but it will have you laughing at all of its lunatic fringe-ness.
Whether it's Lloyd Kaufman as a deranged grandpa with some decidedly demented views on what Santa does to bad little boys (let's just say it involves more than mere circumcision) or Linea Quigely as an over-40 actress turned agent (complete with a Silent Night, Deadly Night shout out), the famous faces often upend Campfield's designs. When they're absent from the screen, there's a real Andy Hardy feeling to the proceedings (for those of you too young to recognize the reference, call it a "Hey Kids - let's put on a show" conceit). You really get the impression that Campfield gathered together a bunch of buddies and decided to film some fright-inspired antics. The minute Felicia Rose (of Sleepaway Camp fame) or Joe Estevez ("I'm NOT Martin Sheen!") show up, we anticipate the mandatory comedy call back. Granted, it works most of the time, but it's like having two competing movies smashed together - one with professionals and one with their fanbase. Still, you have to appreciate the passion Campfield and his cast bring to Caesar and Otto's Deadly Xmas. It may not become a holiday staple, but as a one off oddity, it's a winner.
Loaded with added content - perhaps, overloaded - the DVD of Caesar and Otto's Deadly Xmas is a boon for fans of such fright funny business. There are three separate commentary tracks. Campfield anchors the first one. He is then joined by members of the cast and crew for number two, and the producers for number three. As with all homemade horror discussions, they're all a combination of insights and insanity. We are also treated to three short films - "Pigzilla" (huh?), "Otto's First Job" (decent), and the Joe Estevez starring vehicle, "The Perfect Candidate." There are commentaries on "Candidate," as well as making-ofs for "Pigzilla" and Caesar and Otto itself. Add in some trailers and a few clever Easter Eggs and the bonus features flesh out the film quite well.
As for sound and vision, the movie was made on the cheap, and it looks it. Still, the 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen image doesn't look that bad. A little flat and fuzzy maybe, but nothing like some of the sloppy product you see coming from lo-fi filmmakers. As for the audio, the Dolby Digital 2.0 does a good job of keeping the dialogue free from soundtrack overlap and ambient noise. The score also offers some sonic delights.
Unless you want a lump of coal in your stocking come Christmas 2014, you should give Caesar and Otto's often hilarious holiday adventure a shot. While it sometimes stunts its own intentions, it's a funny farce with a nice amount of nostalgia for its obvious source. Earning a Highly Recommended rating, it's a reminder that, sometimes, enthusiasm can equal entertainment. Not every obsession has to be metered out in diligent detail. If you can capture
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