SWAMPHEAD (2011) movie review

Swamphead (2011) d. Drover, Dustin / Propp, Justin (USA)

From the wild woods of Wisconsin comes this four-years-in-the-making DIY feature that could ostensibly be called a slasher save for the fact that no edged implements are responsible for the bodily damage. Instead, it is the carnivorous, self-ambulating noggin of a murdered Norse warrior (in Cheeseland?) splattering happy campers all over the joint, an outlandish premise that sets the flick’s lowbrow, low-brainer comedy/horror tone for its 75-minute running time.

From a critical standpoint, these kinds of films are almost review-proof. It’s clear from the outset that co-writer/directors Drover and Propp don’t expect their little jaunt to be taken seriously – this is an exercise in homegrown splatter with a neverending barrage of poop-butt-dick jokes (hereafter known as PBDJ) intended to keep the sniggerers sniggering. That said, the ambition on display deserves applause – no doubt this was a challenging shoot, albeit one with a lot of laughter between takes. There are any number of impressive traveling camera shots, stunts and gore effects, so much so that one wishes that the boys hadn’t given over to the lowest common denominator as often as they do.

The humor – which will prove the most divisive viewer element – is juvenile and offensive in the extreme, ranging from unabashed “retard” characters reveling in their own fecal output to repellent white trash hot tub parties to the shirtless sight gag of a character sporting the ripest, fullest man boobs I’ve ever seen onscreen. None of the characters resemble real human beings, and as a result not much resonates beyond the superficial diaper overload or innard-blasting gore shots. Not that there isn’t pleasure to be derived on this level for those so inclined – I found myself often laughing long and hard at the outrageous politically incorrect and scatological buffet spread.

With its loosey-goosey feel of a passion project shot on weekends with family and friends, the challenging cinematography and downright impressive special effects come off as genuinely pleasant surprises. Among a group of like-minded fiends, I imagine this will be a sure-fire crowd-pleaser. But by wallowing in the cheapest of laughs, Drover and Propp may have denied themselves the wider audience their dedication and talent deserves.

Swamphead has been picked up for distribution by Briarwood Entertainment and is scheduled for a mid-summer 2013 release.


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