Gory Gory Hallelujah (2003)

Pitching itself as “an apocalyptic fairy fail”, and featuring the praise of both Llyod Kaufman (head of Troma Studios and psychotronic cinema royalty) and Richard Elfman (brother of Danny), I had never heard of this film until my father-in-law dropped it off as one of his £1 charity shop finds. Whilst the ridiculous cover drew me in, I was also interested by it being a “Von Piglet Sisters” movie. I wanted to see what director/producer Sue Corcoran and writer Angie Louise could come up with, as female created films are still less uncommon in Bargain Bin genre flicks, so sat down in anticipation and wondered “how crazy could this be?”

Four actors – A black revolutionary (Jeff Gilbert), a feminist (Angie Louise), a Jew (Todd Licea), and a bisexual hippie (Tim Gouran) – all meet after auditioning for the part of Jesus in a Seattle play. None of them get the part, because the Director thinks he’s God, so they decided to motorbike across America to audition in New York for Jesus Christ Superstar. A bar fight with a group of Nazi Elvis impersonators results in murder, so they go off the highways and end up arrested in a small town named Jacksonville after the hippie is caught in a vice sting when he offers an undercover cop a blow job in a toilet.

What happens next is likely to shock, amuse, possibly offend, and hopefully surprise you with it’s mishmash of film parody and socio-political/religious satire. It also includes the line “unfortunate lynching accident”, so please set your sets in the “darkest of humours” position and accept that shots can be taken at any moment at anything that happens to be nearby. There are dance numbers, because at the point they happen you will either have turned it off or be perfectly fine to roll with it.

The acting is highly unrealistic, as it should be given the content, with everyone’s personality worn on their sleeve and emotions are cranked up to 10. The pacing is similarly rapid, and whilst it has a thorough story and satisfying three-act structure it doesn’t mind throwing the viewer around without much notice. Everything is continually popping, the gags don’t stop rolling, the sex scenes are funny and sexy (OMG!), and it is trying to create a world that you can uncomfortably recognise whilst still getting a sense of whimsy and surrealism from.

Through all this, plus a sequence of bloody deaths in the dance number, it manages to avoid trading in nihilistic negativity; opting to focus on social issues with an upbeat manner and carry an overall positive message. Virtues of love and tolerance are presented, with some tongue-in-cheek fun poking at their contradictions and imperfections that manages to highlight their idealised state. Meanness, hypocrisy, and bigotry are given little respite, especially when demonstrated by those in positions of power, whilst the intentions of those institutions are held in due regard. For example, when the Evil Elvis Impersonators start quoting The King’s songs whilst engaging in violent assault it’s clear that they are taking his cherished words in vain.

This film is, very obviously, not for everyone. It’s silly, it knows it’s silly, and it is going to revel in that silliness with no regard for anyone wanting to beat it into a respectable corner. It’s part sex comedy, part-alternative musical, part-connected sketch humour, and all steeped in the late nineties’ Alternative Community; touchstones for it are Pee-Wee’s Playhouse, The Kids In The Hall, and Cannibal: The Musical, and the shooting style owes a lot to the hyper-saturated, retro-sleaze parodies that turned up on late-night MTV when they still played music. However, it has a very clear and distinct voice of its own, adding to its demented fun and wild enthusiasm rather than being derivative of other works.

Within its first five minutes, it will either enthral or annoy you. I was hooked, and loved it all the way through to the end, so I have to class it as a Treasure. Whilst others, especially those missing the context of when it was made, may not be as drawn in; its inventiveness and unrelentingness should similarly win you over if you are up for a bit of outsider quirkiness. At the very least, it’s colourful, has the right production values for what it’s trying to do, and has enough jokes-per-minute to keep you on your toes.

The Raggedyman

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