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Sometimes my note taking while watching a movie is brief. On the one hand, it's disruptive to the flow. On the other hand, some movies don't need it. Hanger is one such movie. A movie that doesn't need notes, that is. Other than eight words about A/V quality, these are my two scrawls, "offensive nightmare," and "90 minutes of wallowing in filth." That's it, Kemosabe! Now I'm going to ramble for a few paragraphs, which will do nothing but cement the opinion you've already developed regarding this movie.
Coming from reading a tiny bit about Crispin Glover's taboo-busting movie What Is It?, I'm compelled to imbue Hanger with more importance than it deserves. Glover laments the corporate clampdown on taboo subject matter in American culture. He wants people to think for themselves. Insane rabble-rouser Ryan Nicholson (Gutterballs, Live Feed) might be interested in making people think for themselves, but if so, is coming at it from the entirely opposite direction. Whereas Glover uses actors with Down syndrome, Nicholson employs actors to portray developmentally disabled mutants; smashing, pissing on, and generally raping taboos with gleeful abandon. While I'm offended to my core by Nicholson's movies, I can't help but love the guy.
His character Hanger earns his nickname due to the way he's brought into the world, the result of a graphic, pimp-induced back alley abortion gone wrong. 18 years after the rubbery fetus is thrown across a cheap motel room, Hanger is all grown up and given a job by his murderous, ambiguously evil dad. It's a plum job, too, working with two other disfigured, retarded geeks (you'll excuse the expression, it's the only thing that fits the movie) in a garbage dump. Though sold as a revenge flick - will Hanger get revenge on those who have wronged him? - Hanger seems to exist only to push the low-budget sleaze-horror envelope over the edge and into oblivion.
If you like this sort of stuff, have a good sense of humor, a strong stomach, and a pad on your floor, (you'll need it for the number of times your jaw drops) you'll come away from this singular experience with a new red badge of courage. The badge is made of menstrual blood, and it comes from tampons that the offensively characterized, sex-and-beer obsessed Asian mongoloid likes to brew up as tea. Yes, it's that kind of movie. And in fact most of us who would willfully sit through Hanger could probably describe ourselves as sex-and-beer obsessed Asian mongoloids anyway, right?
I admiringly, grudgingly wonder what the hell Nicholson is even about? Why does he make movies 99% of the population would never consider watching, and 1% of the population probably wouldn't admit to watching? Does it have to do with the degeneration of our cultural mores, when a video called '2 Girls, 1 Cup' can become a cause celebré? I have no idea, and at the risk of having my wife initiate divorce proceedings, I'll continue to follow Nicholson's career with great interest. I guess because it's fun.
Then again, it isn't really all that fun, is it? General plotlessness, a sincere but short-changed desire to cross over into some variety of porn, attempts to rub everyone's face into the worst kind of mean-spirited humor possible, and a world in which, no matter what heinous depths you sink to, being gay is still the worst thing possible - these things are hard to take no matter how forgiving you are. So, approach with caution, ye with brave hearts. It's all fun and games until you watch someone smash a hooker's head to bits with a car door, or enjoy the sight of a delinquent having his way with a suppurating hole in someone's large intestine. And you thought it couldn't get any worse, didn't you?
Nicholson's low-budget milieu shows up loud and clear in video quality, starting with the non-anamorphic 1.85:1 widescreen presentation, which leaves a bit too much black around the borders, if you know what I'm saying. Heavy grain, plenty of aliasing, and an overall harsh digital image will confirm your suspicions about this movie's station in life. Colors are decent but not terribly rich and detail levels overall are a bit below par.
Dolby Digital 5.1 Audio is a bit of overkill, all things considered. The movie is based on a foundation of poor ADR dialog full of inappropriate echoes and occasionally bad synching between lips and words. I'll call this a bad audio track but note that it fits well with everything else.
For all that is vile herein, Hanger gives good extra. First is (what should be standard) a Commentary Track with the director. Nicholson is affable and doles out plenty of decent BTS stuff, including a few funny revelations. Even if we don't, he seems to know what he's doing. Behind The Stoma: The Making and Taking of Hanger is 20 minutes of fairly standard BTS material, but will at least help you process what you've seen. Enough Dope to Hanger Yourself With: On the set of Hanger with Lloyd Kaufman is 12 minutes with the sleaze-miester who seems to be picking up steam in his old age. There's good stuff here about the perils of low-budge filmmaking. Black On White Inbred, (or Rose's Bush per the DVD) is a three-minute short of the porno seen in the movie. If you want to see a guy try to snort coke with his dork, here's your chance. Trailers an explicit Stills Gallery, and two minutes of Deleted Scenes complete the picture.
Forced to wager, I'd guess Nicholson doesn't really expect you to take this crass descent into hell seriously, yet he pushes every button available with such force you can't help but flinch in mortal terror. This tale of a nearly aborted mutant in a world without pity revels in slime. The title character may want revenge on the pimp who tried to end his life before it had begun, but it's really just an excuse to ladle on disgusting gore, deviant sexuality, gratuitous, almost hardcore masturbation with a Hello Kitty felt pen, and much more (and much worse). It's a select group who will enjoy what must be taken as a harmless romp in the sewer ... but it still hurts. Sane people, Skip It. You sickos out there might conversely consider it highly recommended.
- Kurt Dahlke