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Movie Review: Father’s Day

Father's Day horror movie poster featuring painted illustrations of the cast

There are a lot of fathers who birthed Father’s Day, the first collaboration between U.S. exploitation production company/distributor Troma Entertainment and Canadian filmmaking collective Astron-6, of which there are five members: Adam Brooks, Jeremy Gillespie, Conor Sweeney, Matt Kennedy and Steven Kostanski. And, yes, Lloyd Kaufman makes an amusing cameo in the film.

Overall, it’s a good marriage as Astron-6 knows precisely what to deliver to keep Troma audiences happy: Over-the-top gore, maniacal and non-sensical plot twists, bad jokes, lots of naked women and, especially, extreme mutilation of male genitals. One particular extended scene of self-mutilation of one character’s organ towards the end of the film crosses over from being a quick, gross-out gag to a “We dare you to watch this through to the end” act of visual sadism towards the audience.

All of the Astron-6 members pull down double, triple and sometimes quadruple duty on the film according to the credits. All receive writing and directing credits while most of them appear in major roles and then divvy up the technical credits amongst themselves. With everyone participating seemingly equally, the end result can feel somewhat episodic. In that regard, it’s not unlike another famous Canadian comedic troupe’s feature-length cult movie endeavor: The Kids in the Hall’s Brain Candy, which also had an overall plot, but was essentially a series of skits that made sure each troupe member had equally prominent screen time.

The episodic nature of Father’s Day serves to enhance the film’s anarchic nature. The plot opens with Twink (Conor Sweeney), a homosexual street hustler whose dad is the latest victim of a serial killer who only murders other people’s fathers. However, the killer has been out of commission for a number of years and now that he’s resurfaced, a young priest, Father Sullivan (Matt Kennedy), is sent to retrieve the reclusive vigilante who stands the only chance of finding and killing him.

That vigilante is the one-eyed alpha male Ahab (Adam Brooks), who essentially becomes the main character after he shows up a third of the way in, sort of like Sheriff Marge Gunderson in Fargo. On his way to catching the killer, Ahab has numerous inner demons to deal with, including incestuous longings for his sister (Amy Groening), who just happens to work in a strip club to make sure plenty of bare breasts work their way into an otherwise heavily guy-dominated adventure.

The chase of the killer is then pretty much an excuse for Astron-6 to show off their various styles and interests, including a nicely choreographed, low-budget car chase; plenty of witty banter; some genuinely scary explorations of dark rooms and corridors; and, since this all takes place in the Canadian side of Tromaville, a running gag involving maple syrup. All of this culminates in an extensive, low-fi special effects-laden jaunt into the bowels of Hell that bears the impressive visual design hallmarks found in the films solo directed by Steven Kostanski, such as Heart of Karl and Lazer Ghosts 2.

Mostly, this all works together in great fun. The only part that isn’t quite successful is the way the film partially nods towards the neo-grindhouse style that’s been trendy since Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino made it popular among cult movie nerds. For example, Father’s Day sports scenes with faux scratchy frames and odd editing jumps, which appear too few and far between that they stand out in a negative way. The same goes for a late-night TV ad randomly inserted into the middle of the movie, in the vein of the classic anthology film Amazon Women on the Moon. It just ends up as one gimmick too many.

Let’s just hope that Astron-6 is riding what is — even more hopefully — the tail end of the current retro craze. Instead of continuing to look backwards and pine for the “glory days” of exploitation, we need more filmmakers creating an innovative future. With Father’s Day, this crew clearly has the talent to make that happen.

Watch the Father’s Day movie trailer: