Film-making has only ever been limited by the creativity of the people involved, and its intricacies can be as mind-numbing as it is profound. A simple topic can be dissected, twisted and otherwise transformed into something that mirrors the director’s vision. Art can imitate life, or in the instance of a director establishing themselves as an auteur: life can imitate their art.
What can then be said about G. Patrick Condon’s Incredible Violence? Well, I can think of a few words, and will happily list them: patchwork, meta, self-referential, cruel, zany, Frankensteinian (the creation, not the creator), disposable and just plain wonky. I would go on but you want to read a review, and I don’t want to artificially inflate it to meet the word limit.
The aforementioned film plays out like a meta-fuelled nightmare, and so too will this digestion take on the form of a surreal stream of consciousness.
Incredible Violence centres on G. Patrick Condon (played by a pseudo-serious Stephen Oates), a slouch of a director who squanders the money he was given to make a film, who then resorts to basic bitchery to complete his project of making a dime a dozen slasher film: locking his cast and crew (himself) in an isolated, run-down house in the middle of nowhere, putting on a plaster mask plus fur coat, and spilling sensible amounts of blood.
There is no end to what can be said about meta-film making or the genre of a film-within-a-film, but how does it work for said movie at hand? It does so whilst you are dipped into this world that the director is creating, then you’re occasionally taken out with a silent “see!” whenever there is a moment that could have easily been the set up for a fourth wall break; such as the random cuts to the director brooding in his darkly-lit loft.
However, the style falls short in that it breaks the flow of the film, and that is where one of its shortcomings is exposed: it is not that Condon lacked any ideas, it is rather that he had too many running at once on-screen. The script loses focus in parts and you’re left wondering why these other character arcs are present, or if certain ambiguities – such as whether the director snapped because of the pressure or because he got too deep into character – were intentional or just accidental. You’re given too much to chew on and lose all sense of taste during a 10-course meal, basically.
The picture is cheaply made – you can almost sniff hints of grindhouse – so park your sensibilities and go along for the ride. One nice touch is how Condon uses outdated technology to pursue his plan, such as a fax machine to send directions to the cast, and fixed security cameras to film the action. Not only is it bound to tickle the antique boner of hipsters, it also shows the low-budget scale this horror film aims to be. It’s a devious way to deliver unique situations whilst cutting down on staff costs – or does it?
The humour in a handful of scenes really shines through and provides some prime gallows laughter. One example can be seen during the first film – and film within a film – kill: Condon realises he stabbed the girl out of frame, then proceeds to prop up the corpse in front of the camera and stabs it some more, right before he rips open her top and goes for one of the oldest (and sleaziest) tropes of horror movies, the gratuitous titty shot.
The rest of the characters are thread-bare and purely for body count. However, Grace (M.J. Kehler) is the anchor of the story, being the entertaining focal point that the action revolves around and the under dog that you want to see succeed, including a minor shift in her dynamics towards the end that shows a savage side.
The overall concept behind the picture is very much like Oates’ character: shambling in and out of rooms, whilst providing a scary, imposing presence but you still get your money’s worth with regards to brutal bloodletting.
Incredible Violence is over the top, ridiculous and constantly reminds you that it is aware of its meta status. It shows all that it can – aside from a few head-scratching instances – leaving little to think about other than the violence, which is as the title suggests.
It is a demanding film in that must be viewed under certain requirements, such as having a strong love of indie films made on a shoestring budget. Overall, you will need to reserve your expectations and enjoy the handful of brilliant moments hidden under the quirkiness – to drive home the point: the general filmgoing masses will be left bewildered. You will be too, even if you walk away thinking “that was so ridiculous I had fun!”.
Think if Funny Games had a villain acting like Michael Myers (including a cheap mask), but not as slick and just as incredibly wacky.