BANJO [FrightFest 2015]

PrintE-mail Written by Charlie Oughton

We have here a film featuring The Human Centipede’s Laurence R. Harvey, Serial Kaller’s Dani Thompson and a cheeky cameo from Mr. Troma, ‘Uncle’ Lloyd Kaufman himself. Liam Regan’s feature is a worthy successor to the studio famous for taking social issues, grabbing them by the balls and then cutting off said balls while projectile vomiting green goo at 90 miles an hour amidst a cloud of faux steam.

The plot lead-in is pretty simple and starts with the pinched face of Ms. Thompson in a fit of pique as she berates her boggled beau, Peltzer (James Hamer-Morton), while apparently having sex with him. In truth, it’s a little hard to know as it certainly looks more like assault, and herein lies half of the appeal of the picture. Peltzer genuinely looks terrified, all shambolic floppy fringe, lying on the bed beneath those boobs (hell, this is Tromaesque, after all). While the story follows Peltzer as he tries to grow a pair and assert himself over his bitch of a girlfriend, bullying co-workers and absolute asshat of a boss with the help of the mysterious friend, Ronnie, it does so via the best excesses imaginable. The cast play shotgun hopscotch over the line between bad acting for the cheek of it, gallant overstatement and, at times, actual emotion. Thompson generally looks furious, Vito Trigo cold hearted and Stiles Rembrandt (Clay von Carlowitz) the confident stud who doesn’t realise he actually isn’t quite.

However, the two main stars are Hamer-Morton and Damian Morter as Peltzer and Ronnie. Hamer-Morton actually manages to both mug and relate his way through emotions ranging from wedgied distress through to ‘dick out’ victory dancing. Ronnie, on the other hand, is a force of nature itself, combining actual believability with a hella snazzy waistcoat so that even the most OTT Troma humour seems really oddly appropriate. The sections these two have together are a genuine joy to watch and incredibly funny not for the daft, scuzzy humour but because the comic timing and commitment of the actors actually sells the bond of the situation they’re presenting. This is also partly due to the film’s editing and camera work, which is impressively slick and rather adventurous. This in turn is aided and abetted by little touches such as the corny music, which feel oddly appropriate in context. It emphasizes the cast’s strengths, allowing you to live it vicariously with them.

The film isn’t entirely without issues. A few of the more emotional sequences from other players fall surprisingly flat, it could do with a little clarification on what Ronnie is, and it must be said that the actual ending feels a little limp after what has gone before. That said, this is quite a minor quibble for a film that has genuinely hugely enjoyable segments. If Troma is an acquired taste, Liam Regan is a fucking connoisseur. Drop Dead Fred grabbed a Banjo and got balls.


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