Mr. C. Killer, just before making his rootin'-tootin' kills.
People make indie films for a variety of reasons. Sometimes major filmmakers
like Romero, Soderbergh and even Coppola make indies on purpose so they can avoid making
Sometimes indie filmmakers have no choice. They can't get any money because they are pretentious asses, perverts, or talentless hacks. But
at other times, indie filmmakers are just unknowns trying to establish the
filmmaking credentials necessary to get noticed in
an extremely crowded field. The people in the latter group have neither deep
perversions nor a political agenda, and in fact would love to be making big
films, but no studio exec knows who they are. The only way they can build
resumes and credibility is to make some films on their own. That's exactly how
Peter Jackson started, for example.
The writers and director of Cowboy Killer are now in the same situation that
Jackson faced 20 years earlier. There's good news and bad news about their
predicament. The good news is that they have a pretty good idea how to make
movies. That bad news is that they don't have the resources available to seal
the deal. Hell, they don't have the resources available to seal my deck.
Let's concentrate on the good news. Cowboy Killer, a tongue-in-cheek slasher
film about a loco desperado who goes on an 19th century killing spree
in the 21st century, has a pretty damned good script. It has an original
concept, some interesting characters, and some good one-liners. The director
put the narrative together clearly and concisely, with very few dead spots.
The filmmakers know the minimum genre requirements for guilty pleasures like
splatter and nudity. The people involved in the process of making this film
have good sense of humor and understand completely that they are entertainers
who are supposed to show their audiences a good time. The DVD has a
full-length commentary and even a blooper reel, just like a studio release. If
they had had enough money to make this into a Halloween theatrical release, it
would have been more fun to watch than 75% of the genre films that actually
get into theaters.
The bad news is that they did not have that money. They basically had only the
money they got by breaking into Aunt Gertrude's childhood piggy bank and
selling off her funny-colored wartime pennies. As a result, the film just
drips of garage band filmmaking. The locales consist of local parking garages,
the city dump, and various homes, cars and apartments which were probably
supplied by acquaintances. Worse still, the cast obviously consists of
friends, family, local strippers, and other volunteers, none of whom is likely
to be recruited soon for the annual command performance by the Royal
Shakespeare Company, or even for the annual company picnic skit at the
Shakespeare Fishing Rod Company. If the entire acting community consisted of
this cast, and a director wanted to film MacBeth, the Governator and Kathy Ireland could re-enter the industry to
play the leads. Long stretches of this movie pass without a
single credible line delivery, and that has the effect of tearing down the
fourth wall completely, so that we can never really relax and just get
immersed the story, but are constantly reminded that we're just watching
something equivalent to high school kids putting on a play.
And I'm not talking about the kids who get A's in drama. We're talkin'
remedial classes here.
Oh, well, maybe somebody in the industry will notice the film's positives and
toss a few bucks in the direction of these guys. Amateurish as Cowboy Killer
may be from time to time, it is entertaining enough that I would watch another of their movies,
and would even watch this one again if they re-did it with a real budget and
professional actors. Apart from the budgetary restrictions, the film's only
real problem is that it vacillates between being a slasher film and being a
parody of slasher films, and the filmmakers never really committed toward
either option. As a result, it's probably too nasty for comedy lovers, but
offers far too much downright silly nudge-nudge comedy to be a satisfying entry
into the horror/slasher genre. In fact, if you like horror/slasher films, you
may just realize that the filmmakers are making fun of your taste, which may
account for the film's current abysmal IMDb rating of 2.1. On the other hand,
if you think you might want to see a micro-budget genre parody,
you just might be "in for a damn treat" with a fair share of guilty