Film Review: MUSCLECAR
MUSCLECAR is an Australian independent horror-comedy that has gained my appreciation as an instant Ozploitation classic. Not only that, it’s a film which debunks the overtly sweeping sentiment that grindhouse cinema is dead.
Rockabilly babe Bambi Steele (Jacinta Stapleton) is almost broke after her directorial debut fails. That doesn’t stop her from spending her last ten-grand on a big, red, vintage muscle car. With no money for gas, Bambi learns that her car can run on the blood of drunk people. Along with the discovery of a “Voodoo Mechanics” book and her rapidly growing kill count, Bambi sets out in search of the human sacrifices necessary to perform a ritual that will give her car a soul.
What sets this film apart from so many others is its awesome use of animation. MUSCLECAR uses comic book style illustrations to transition from scene to scene and propel the film’s narrative. These animated sequences are one of the major highlights of the film. If you are a lover of vintage comic books then this will be a visual feast for you. MUSCLECAR may not be seamless, but these comic panels really elevate the film aesthetically. They are also a sleek way to be expositional without treating the viewer like an idiot.
The other thing I really liked about this film were the characterizations. They’re over-the-top caricatures, utilizing hefty amounts of satire to make its messages known. One of it’s messages is that women don’t owe their bodies to anyone. Bambi knows this and it makes her an awesome character. She is self-assured and doesn’t let anyone use her. It’s fun to watch her interactions with the all too appropriately named character Randy (Tai Scrivener). Randy embodies every scumbag who ever felt entitled enough to think a woman owed him something just because he was nice to her. The scenes are played for laughs but it’s good to see a woman on screen repeatedly say no. I may be reading too much into it, but I’ll take my feminism where I can get it.
The film relishes in its outlandishness like any quality B-movie should, but don’t mistake this for a ‘so bad it’s good’ flick. This is a genuine and impressive break out film for director Dwayne Labbe. MUSCLECAR is silly and crazy with some downright absurd plot points. Even more wild is the dialogue, with unforgettable lines such as “I don’t know how to tell you this- your car’s got AIDS”.
It’s all done on purpose- MUSCLECAR knows exactly what it is and doesn’t try to take itself too seriously. It’s refreshing when a film completely embraces the B-movie within!
The film is unabashedly influenced by DEATH PROOF and PLANET TERROR, which is cool in my books. It’s similar in concept and style to the SyFy TV series BLOOD DRIVE , as well as the Aussie zombie comedy WYRMWOOD: ROAD OF THE DEAD. That being said, MUSCLECAR has something special that those schlock-fests are lacking. The film has an earnestness about it that you just can’t fake. It’s one of the many reasons I love independent film so much.
MUSCLECAR won the Independent Spirit Award at A Night of Horror Film Festival in Sydney late last year. This award was well deserved and perfectly sums up the film- MUSCLECAR has a whole lot of spirit, and a whole lot of blood. Despite the craziness, the film is infectious in its determination to have fun.
MUSCLECAR is making its North American debut at the San Francisco Independent Film Festival (SFIFF), which runs from February first through the fifteenth. I love that this particular example of Australian humor and fun is being unleashed on the world. So if you’re checking out the films at SFIFF this year, you should definitely let MUSCLECAR take you for a wild ride.
“MUSCLECAR has a whole lot of spirit, and a whole lot of blood.”