Wednesday, December 20, 2006


Give a young guy and his buddies a camcorder and some fake blood and chances are pretty good you'll end up with the kind of shitty cookie-cutter comedy/horror flick writers like me have seen dozens of times (and yes, I'm guilty of making one as well). If somehow despite the complete lack of lighting, incompetent camera work and garbled audio you do manage to be able to make out anything that's going on, what does come across is generally nothing that Troma hasn't done before, only less gooey and with one third the enthusiasm. However, from my experience I've noticed that if you give that same camcorder to a young girl, you'll get something a bit more interesting and original. Why? Girls are smarter. It's fucking scientific fact.

Heather Dixon's BULLETS & MASCARA takes all the familiar locations of the aforementioned backyard horror romps - the woods, the park, mom & dad's basement - and uses them to present a KILL BILL-inspired kung fu action comedy that's light on tired sub-references and heavy on low-budget filmmaking prowess. Dixon, whose hand was in every aspect of production from story to camera to editing, plays lead character Gwen opposite Tuesday Critz as Sophie (Critz also plays her own twin sister!) as a pair of assassins who steal a briefcase belonging to a freaked-out villain in drag named Jill (Joe Trione). The film is a non-stop parade of excellent fight scenes, fun performances, nible editing and camera angles, and perhaps best of all: a kickass training montage set to Pat Benatar's "Invincible"!

What I enjoyed most about BULLETS & MASCARA was how much it ended up resembling the films of 70's cult hero Jack Hill (SWITCHBLADE SISTERS, COFFY, SPIDER BABY), one of Tarantino's main influences, instead of the films of ol' Q himself. Hill's signature is that his movies always start out kinda cheesy and fun, but by the finale you are biting the shit out of your nails. Dixon and friends really pulled one over on me, because just when I was getting comfortable with their humor and style, here comes a third act full of twists, gore, and intensity that I wasn't expecting at all. Just like in Jack Hill's movies. I was glued to the screen by the end. Seriously.

I've seen far worse films by people twice Heather's age with six-figure budgets. Her hard work as an editor really shows here, as well as the effort on the part of all participants to truly make something unusual and cool. There are no weak links and no padding of the running time, just wall to wall fun and one motherfucker of an ending. Please Heather, don't be like other promising young female filmmakers we've seen disappear after one really awesome debut movie (Shasta Fairchild! DO YOU HEAR ME?). Let's see some more!

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