By Don Simpson | December 5, 2010
Director: Deagol Brrothers
Writer(s): Deagol Brothers, Cody DeVos, Eric Lehning
Starring: Eric Lehning, Cody DeVos, Leah High, Brett Miller, Tia Shearer, Jordan Lehning, Josh Duensing
I remember hearing a lot of positive buzz about the Deagol brothers’ Make-Out with Violence during the 2009 South by Southwest Film Festival, but I was never able to catch any of the screenings. Eighteen months later, after all but forgetting the film ever existed, I receive a review copy of the DVD release from Factory 25. Other than hearing people rant and rave about it, I knew very little about the plot of the Make-Out with Violence. I have not read any reviews — so I have no idea how other critics feel about it — and to be perfectly honest, I think my naïveté probably made my viewing experience a lot more enjoyable. So, I guess what I am trying to get at is: read on at your own damn risk…besides, what the hell do critics know anyway?!
Oh, and I should probably also warn you that I am not going to bother synopsizing Make-Out with Violence. All I will tell you about the plot is that if I were to make a one-line Hollywood pitch for Make-Out with Violence it would be: Imagine John Hughes’ Weird Science but with a zombie girl! That should give you a decent enough idea of what we are dealing with here. All the film is missing is an Oingo Boingo title tune, but really, as far as indie rock soundtracks go, Make-Out with Violence’s is really strong. It is also worth noting that most of the soundtrack and the entire score is written and performed by the film’s lead actors — primarily Eric Lehning (who plays Patrick) and/or Jordan Lehning (who plays Rody)…and I absolutely adore Leah High’s (who plays Addy) cover of Brian Eno’s “St. Elmo’s Fire”.
While on the subject of the actors, Shellie Marie Shartzer (who plays Wendy) makes an absolutely fantastic zombie. I just love the way Shartzer moves (and not in a creepy sexually voyeuristic kind of way); her long bouts of being frozen in one often visibly uncomfortable position are accented with occasional fits of seemingly uncontrollable flopping, and all the while Shartzer’s face remains cold and emotionless like a mannequin or doll. And I do not mean to discredit any of the other actors, as they are all great — it is clearly the performances that make Make-Out with Violence so damn entertaining.
Now here is where some of you will attest that I am clearly off my rocker, but I think Make-Out with Violence is an incredibly intelligent deconstruction of the zombie film genre. As structurally conventional as Make-Out with Violence seems, it is certainly not a conventional zombie flick; it basically takes everything we know about zombie films and flips our expectations completely inside out. I seem to think that Make-Out with Violence will probably piss off a lot of horror film geeks — and not just because it quite purposefully refuses to deliver the bloody mayhem they crave oh so much — but because, as far as horror films go, Make-Out with Violence is incredibly bright and cheerful (both aesthetically and dramatically speaking). Heck, it is downright silly (and sometimes ridiculous) — and not in an Army of Darkness kind of way…more like a Weird Science kind of way. Make-Out with Violence is far from flawless, but it certainly is a barrel of fun.
And, speaking of flaws… my only criticism — and its a major one for me — is the Deagol brothers’ casting decisions. Make-Out With Violence is a story about a group of teenagers aimlessly navigating their first summer after high school graduation, and the actors playing those teenagers look like they are in their mid-twenties. All of the actors are well beyond capable; it is just totally inconceivable that any of them recently graduated high school. Personally, I would have kept the casting as is but aged the characters a few years. Yes, I understand that a major part of the narrative tension is the constant fear that one of their parents might discover the zombie girl, so it makes the most sense to have the characters still living in their parents’ houses. But we rarely see any of the adults of the film, so does that really matter?
The Factory 25 Blu-Ray/DVD release includes: deleted and extended scenes; deleted score; cast and crew commentary; The Fugitive Brain (a behind the scenes of the formation of Limerent pictures, including screen tests and auditions); Saturday is Now Ruined (a look at the design process of graphic designer Ed O’Brien); Eric Lehning’s radio spots; interview and videos by The Non-Commissioned Officers; and essays by filmmaker Craig Zobel and journalist James Rocchi.