Sundance 2011: “Hobo With A Shotgun” is a bona fide trash pastiche


Hobo With A Shotgun

Directed by Jason Eisener

Written by John Davies

2011, Canada

Jason Eisener and producer Rob Cotterill made a big splash at Sundance two years ago with their short film Treevenge, an unflinchingly gruesome look at what might happen if Christmas trees took revenge on humans. Now they’re back with Hobo With a Shotgun, a film originally conceived as a fake trailer Eisener made for the 2007 Quentin Tarantino/Robert Rodriguez double bill Grindhouse (where it won top prize). Hobo arrived at Sundance already with a distribution deal with Magnet (the genre arm of Magnolia Pictures) and it’s easy to see why. Eisener has a palpable affection for the kitsch factor at work here, the energy of working on the edge with a low budget. Hobo is a bona fide trash pastiche, a perfect film that achieves its goals in virtually every respect.

Director Jason Eisener has not only paid homage to 70’s / 80’s exploitation films, he’s made a film that really feels like an authentic, direct-to-video nasty. The movie not only copies the look of grindhouse movies, but captures the overall spirit. Hobo encourages cheers, screams and laughter. It demands you shout back at the collection of memorable cinematic quotations thrown in the mix (“You can’t solve the whole world’s problems with a shotgun!”). The acting is over the top, the music is muffled and billows at inappropriate times, and cinematographer Karim Hussain employs a super-saturated color palette, capturing the blood-fest in all its Technicolor glory.

Enthralling and exhilarating in its combustible camp-driven excess, Hobo is an incendiary concoction that shamelessly stimulates the senses. Eisener and writer John Davies never hold out, throwing everything and anything that they can at the audience, so much so that the late appearance of a robotic motorcycle gang and a giant octopus hardly seems erratic. But even hardcore fans of bloody grind-house flicks may be taken aback at some of the over-the-top gore. Every time you think the movie can’t become any more violent, any more grotesque, or any more outrageous, it does. Eisener thinks outside the box, creating new ways to destroy the human body with clever decapitations, a shotgunned castration, a weaponized ice skate to the chest and an especially gruesome scene involving a school bus full of children burned alive – all of which is presented as cause for laughter. It’s not just enough that a man be decapitated with barbed wire, but that a woman in a white bikini immediately be soaked in his blood.

Some may denounce the film’s continuous bad taste, but to do so would be missing the point; they’re the film’s entire raison d’etre. Hobo With a Shotgun delivers what it promises and will satisfy midnight movie gore-hounds. There is a blithe stream-of-self-awareness at play here, similar to what you might find in the early exploitation masterpieces. Hobo is a navel-gazing exercise in nostalgia for a bygone era when trash cinema had its own lurid pedigree and roster of auteurs. Perhaps in all it’s insanely violent glory, it will launch a new wave of Canucksploitation (the Canadian Grind-house tag from the seventies), Gratuitously smutty, sadistically violent, inventive, assured and absurdly entertaining –  a fuckin’ masterpiece.

Jason Elsbury

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