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Entries in Hole in the Wall [2014] (1)

Wednesday
Nov052014

Hole in the Wall (2014)

Middlingwest

In many ways, Hole in the Wall is the calling card for Wisconsin's vibrant indie-horror film scene that it was intended to be. Like an arterial geyser, the anthology sprays audience members with graphic violence and outrageously depraved subject matter. It's also one of the slickest slices of Wisco horror I've seen, and the passion, talent, and imagination of everyone involved is evident from the editing, to the music, to the production design. The stories fall short, though, which is a huge problem.

Yeah, I'm the jerk who looks for narrative nuance in the movie where a serial killer masturbates onto five severed fingers that he's lined up on the edge of his bathtub. Especially in this case, my job as a film critic is to recommend (or not recommend) the movie as a viable alternative to mainstream multiplex horror. In that regard, Hole in the Wall is just as boring as the latest found-footage-possessed-slasher movie slinking into cinemas or onto VOD.

Things get off to a promising start, with a wraparound encounter between a peeping-Tom teen (Draven Wagner) and a burly psycho known as The Plainfield Chopper (Greg Johnson). But once the mini-stories kick in, the film waffles between identical journeys into madness featuring identical killers--and deliberately nonsensical art films that substitute kooky atmosphere for character or cohesion. I understand what the creators of the latter kind of segment were going for, but their pieces are so aggressively quirky and non-structured as to be instantly tiresome.*

The movie revels in its own alleged boundaries-pushing masochism. If a drain appears on screen, you can bet the last thing to go down it will be water. And for what? This is a culture that turned "Two Girls, One Cup" into a YouTube meme. Sure, the idea of watching an exposed male anus, rectal beads made from severed fingers, and a soiled-underwear facemask**might get the Sunday-best crowd to pray extra hard, but any outrage from this film's target audience will most assuredly be feigned.

So why, if I have such an apparent dislike for these low-budget Wisconsin horror movies, do I keep coming back to them? For starters, I don't go into any movie hoping to hate it--nor does any critic I know. It might be fun to rag on something after the fact (if one can muster the enthusiasm to rag at all), but watching bad art is, generally, a drawn-out, excruciating experience. Every film presents a fresh opportunity to be bowled over or bored to tears.

Case in point: two of my favorite indie filmmakers worked on Hole in the Wall. John Pata (who supplied the stunning practical gore effects and appears as a body in the "Plainfield Chopper" scenes) made one the coolest things I've seen all year: a short film called Pity. He also co-created Dead Weight, another favorite. With every outing, Pata elevates my expectations of what one can do with a shoestring budget and the desire to subvert storytelling expectations.

Also on board was Cory J. Udler, whose body of work illustrates what drove me to this regional sub-genre and is also driving me from it. His Incest Death Squad 2 is better than you'd think, based on the title. But his subsequent output (including his segment here, "Ed Gein, D.D.S.") continues a spiral of undisciplined goofiness and fan service. He has it in him to execute truly grim scenarios with off-beat undercurrents, but the last few films are more dares than daring visions.

Regardless of how I feel about the end results, these committed craftsmen have earned my eyeballs for life. I suppose it says more about me than it does about them, that I expect an as-advertised horror movie to be horrific--or at least to stand out from the pack. As it stands, Hole in the Wall is a hodgepodge of potential, dragged down by an off-putting "Don't Care" attitude. Some might wear that as a badge of honor, but it's not helpful for filmmakers who want to make Wisconsin more than a flyover state.

A Note About Piracy: If, by chance, you're going to check out Hole in the Wall, I implore you to pony up the cash and rent it from Vimeo. Last week, Udler announced that the film had been torrented--thus robbing its creative team of the royalties and other opportunities they so richly deserve. Regardless of what one thinks of the film, the blood, sweat, and tears that went into making it are undeniable--and should be rewarded. Two minutes and two dollars will break neither your wallet nor your schedule.

*Writer/director Carolyn Baker's "Siren", for example, is Gaspar Noe by way of Dario Argento, with a detour into the final moments of Rob Zombie's The Lords of Salem--interesting in theory, but in practice, it just made me want to skip to the next item on the McMayhem menu.

**Presto! A theme emerges!