Monday, September 14, 2015
THE EDITOR (2014) Blu-ray Review
The Editor (2014) d. Adam Brooks / Matthew Kennedy (Canada)
Wet Hot American Summer set a high bar for genre parodies in that in addition to being a parody, it also acted as both a loving tribute to a very specific subgenre (early ’80s “summer camp” movies) and a respectable entry into that subgenre itself despite its bizarre humor. There have been a few similar parodies in the years since – Black Dynamite immediately comes to mind as one particularly successful example – but no one has come as close to replicating Wet Hot’s mix of parody and tribute as Canadian comedy group Astron 6.
Starting out making brilliantly weird shorts and faux trailers, Astron 6 made their feature debut with Father’s Day, a film that does for ’70s revenge and exploitation films what Wet Hot did for those camp movies. But Father’s Day actually goes one better, tearing off into a macabre and unexpected direction in a jaw-dropping final act. The next film from the collective, Manborg, took on direct-to-video sci-fi/action films of the late ’80s and early ’90s and garnered a cult following of its own.
Their latest film, The Editor, finds Astron 6 focusing their crazed comedic energy on a new target: Italian exploitation cinema of the 1960s through the 1980s, from the giallo films of Dario Argento and Sergio Martino to the horror films of Lucio Fulci and the Poliziotteschi films of Fernando di Leo and Enzo G. Castellari. The result may not be as unexpectedly outrageous as their previous feature, but that has to be at least partly because Astron 6 has become an established presence in genre circles thanks to their brilliant ability to identify, emulate, and/or send up the defining aspects of genre cinema.
Additionally, it would be damn-near impossible for anyone to out-weird the kind of films which they’re mimicking this time around, although they do their best to at least play on the same level of absurdity that defines the most nonsensical of those movies.
Ray Ciso (Adam Brooks) was one of the best editors in the world before he accidentally chopped off the fingers on his right hand in an editing accident. Now he’s been reduced to cutting together cheap exploitation movies with his beautiful assistant Bella (Samantha Hill) by day and returning home to his abusive washed-up actress wife Josephine (Paz de la Huerta) by night. One night two actors are murdered in the studio by a mysterious black-gloved figure, and Ray quickly becomes the top suspect for investigating detective Peter Porfiry (Matthew Kennedy).
Porfiry strikes up a friendship with terrible actor Cal Konitz (Conor Sweeney), who is excited his co-star has been eliminated so his part in the movie can be bigger. As Porfiry is drawn deeper into the investigation following a home invasion by the killer, Ciso’s sense of reality breaks down.
The bodies pile up and Porfiry learns that not all is what it seems: Father Clarke (Laurence Harvey) explains to Porfiry that in ancient Roman times, editors were considered gatekeepers to the netherworld. What began as a simple murder investigation may become something much more dangerous not only for the people working at the studio, but for reality itself.
The principal references in The Editor are Lucio Fulci’s “Gates of Hell” trilogy (City of the Living Dead, The Beyond, and The House by the Cemetery), the giallo films that followed the blueprint established by Mario Bava’s Blood and Black Lace (black-gloved killers in long coats, beautiful people dying in horrible ways), and Dario Argento’s Suspiria (with its lurid, eye-searing Technicolor and inventively staged and photographed violence). Any viewer familiar with those films will immediately recognize their presence looming over The Editor, which pays respectful homage to the best aspects of those films while gleefully sending up the worst.
The lighting and cinematography are carefully designed to call those films to mind, and even the sound has been completely overdubbed to occasionally comic effect – this isn’t so much a running joke as it is a sincere attempt to duplicate the style of Italian exploitation filmmaking, which was frequently done without using any on-set dialogue recording.
Directors Brooks and Kennedy strive to give the film a look that is reminiscent of their inspirations without attempting to pass the film off as a genuine artifact of the '80s, thankfully refraining from covering the movie in “film noise.” The result is an independent production that looks like a lot of thought and care went into how it was designed, which further helps The Editor stand out from contemporary genre pastiches.
As with Father’s Day, however, Astron 6 fully commits to out-exploiting the exploitation films that inspired them. The Editor is awash in buckets of gore, with excellent practical effects for its sections in the “real” world and ridiculous makeup and effects for scenes for its film-within-a-film. This time around they farmed out some of the makeup and effects work to outside artists, who all acquit themselves admirably with some fantastic work.
Anyone wondering if the overt sexuality of many giallo films will be addressed should put their concerns to rest: there is plenty of male and female nudity on display, and one of the best running jokes in the film is the appearance of various scantily-clad and nude extras wandering around in the background of scenes for no compelling reason.
But even while the jokes come fast and furious, The Editor has direct ties to some of its primary influences with an appearance from the legendary Udo Kier (who was in Suspiria) and music by Goblin’s Claudio Simonetti. It’s gruesome, over-the-top, and absurd, but so were a lot of the Italian films its creators clearly worship, and that fact works against the film as an outrageous parody – this is really only a shade or two more ridiculous than, say, Inferno – but positions The Editor as something closer to a new entry into the canon of those films.
Shout! Factory has given The Editor a great Blu-ray/DVD combo release, starting with great packaging (cardboard slipcase and reversible cover art with two of the film’s festival posters) and extending into some nice special features. The best of these are a full-length commentary with Astron 6 members Adam Brooks, Matthew Kennedy, and Conor Sweeney (cinematographer Jon’Nathon Stebbe also joins them for a short time) and a 50+ minute behind-the-scenes piece entitled "Making Movies Used to Be Fun."
Taken together, the commentary and “making of” paint a vivid picture of how these guys and their many friends and collaborators work tirelessly – and sometimes dangerously – to get their vision on the screen. As with Father’s Day, the Astron 6 guys did all their own stunts, including a high-speed car chase on back roads and a lot more time spent getting up closer to a running chainsaw than just about anybody would feel comfortable with.
Also included are deleted scenes (at least one of which was actually in the cut of the film that screened at the Chicago International Film Festival in 2014), goofy featurettes on the music and poster art, and a filmed introduction created to run in front of the movie at film festivals.
The Editor proves once again that the gentlemen of Astron 6 are among the smartest, most uniquely talented, and hardest-working filmmakers on the international genre scene. Here’s hoping that the film’s home video release will help it find the audience it deserves – and that it helps Astron 6 get in front of and behind the cameras again as soon as possible.
The Editor is available now from Shout! Factory and can be ordered HERE:
--Review by Jason Coffman
Check out more of Jason’s movie musings at https://medium.com/@rabbitroom