01st Aug2017

Fantasia 2017: ‘Assholes’ Review

by Phil Wheat

Stars: Peter Vack, Betsey Brown, Jack Dunphy, Eileen Dietz, Jane Brown, Ron Brown, Richard Mark Jordan, Patrick Labella, James Augustus Lee, Catherine Bo-Eun Song | Written and Directed by Peter Vack


Seemingly inspired by mumblecore filmmaking, Assholes actually plays out more like Troma’s take on the Brian Yuzna film Society, and under their auspices would have been titled something like “Attack of the Killer Assholes” or “New York Assholes Must Die.”

The story centres around three self-absorbed twenty-somethings coping with mumblecore ennui through drugs, therapy and family dinners. Adam, played by writer/director Peter Vack, is too busy getting stoned to pay attention to the fact that his now-sober sister, Adah (Betsey Brown, Vack’s real-life sister), desperately wants his attention, and their parents’ attention, or anyone’s sexual attention – as she tells her analyst. Desperately horny, she hooks up with Adam’s best friend, Aaron (Jack Dunphy), whose anal obsession literally plumbs new depths of perversion. Entertaining each others’ fantasies while riddled with hideous herpes sores, their rectal recreation culminates with a butt-birthed demon, played by The Exorcist’s Eileen Dietz…

Well Assholes certainly lives up to the title – both figuratively and literally. Asshole characters, obssessed with assholes, being assholes and LITERALLY becoming assholes… This film couldn’t fill any more assholes in unless it became a montage of a myriad of assholes rather than a actual movie! Not that many audiences would consider this a movie – Vack’s film is less a film an more an assault on taste, decency and the audience’s senses. It’s also a perfect satire of the nature of this particular aspect of society – even if the characters do seem to be living up to that “self-absored New Yorker” stereotype we’re so often told about.

Blurring the line between film and reality, Assholes is shot guerilla-syle on the streets of New York, complete with bizarre interactions with the people of the city – some seeming to not have prior knowledge that what is happening is part of a movie (obviously some weird sh*t goes down in New York for most people to not be thoroughly offended by the performances of Brown and Dunphy) – Vack’s film not only features his sister in the lead role but also his parents as the parents of Adah.. Vack even goes as far as including footage of all three central characters REAL lives in an out there segment of the film shot as an episode of the TV series Intervention. How the hell Vack persuaded all of his family to get involved, especially considering the subject matter AND the sequences within really cross the boundaries a familial familiarity! I HAVE to mention the scene in which Aaron and Adah each each others assholes out – that had to be awkward to film surely?

Much like the recent The Greasy Strangler you’re either going to love or hate this movie; well I say hate but I can see people really despising this one. Me? I’m in the former camp. Vack has, in Assholes, crafted a perfect example of experimental filmmaking at its best. Pushing the boundaries of not only what is acceptable in terms of taste, but also what is acceptable in terms of filmmaking and storytelling, there is no filter here, not sheen to gloss over the vacuousnees of the characters within. But is Peter Vack an asshole for making Assholes? Only you can be the judge of that.

***½  3.5/5

Assholes screens as part of Fantasia Fest on August 1st.


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