Ginger Nuts of Horror
BY ALEX DAVIS
Come on in, the water's roving...
So, today marks the return of Film Gutter from what was – in all honestly – a totally impromptu break. It wasn't a plan to take some time off, but it has been a fraught couple of months that has seen me chair a British Fantasy Convention, run another event here in my native Derby, start and quit one job and start and distinctly like the look of another. So to call September and October eventful kind of sums it up, and there's been precious little time to indulge the extreme horror hobby. I think this is the first time I've missed more than a week in the better part of two years, so it's not been bad going.
But rest assured, it'll be normal service resumed from here on in as we once again dive headlong, goggles on, nose pinched close into the often nauseating, sometimes sickening but forever fascinating waters of Film Gutter. And today felt like a good time to revisit an old favourite – yes, it's the cult favourite Hobo with a Shotgun, which first came to my attention when the good folks at Mayhem Horror Festival screened it for us at the first Edge-Lit event here in Derby back in summer 2011. Based on the spoof trailer, this one caught fire and made its way into a full grindhouse feature.
This one features Rutger Hauer as the titular Hobo, who arrives in Hope Town looking to find something better for himself. But what he finds instead is an absolute cesspool of violence and crime, with the local crime lord Drake and his two sons running roughshod over the townspeople. With the police in their pocket, they act with impunity – and who on earth will stand up to them?
Well, our Hobo may not be a traditional hero, but he's not going to stand for what he sees in Hope Town – and when he forms an unlikely friendship with the beautiful young Abby, he develops a simple dream: to save up enough for a lawnmower to start his own gardening business. But even that small ambition cannot survive the brutality of Hope Town – and that money goes onto a shotgun and a dream of vengeance instead...
Now, that particular summary might make this one appear fairly hard-hitting and gritty, but of course we're firmly into grindhouse country, so this one is presented with a tongue-in-cheek humour and an over-the-top, technicolour violence that is hard to take seriously. There are disturbing moments – such as the glass chewing incident and the scene in the school bus – but overall the movie is designed to be so overblown that any potential nastiness it has really gets into the absurdly humourous.
And that above is not a criticism, because Hobo is an absolute riot. It's been a while since I watched this one, and it's lost none of its charm in the intervening years. Hauer is ideal as the grizzled lead and our bad guys are an entertaining caricature, comic book villains dialled up to eleven. Some scenes – such as the octopus – are so bananas as to defy explanation, but it doesn't really matter. For those of you with a love of the extreme, this is just a pure, popcorn-munching piece of great fun delivered with energy and panache.
RATING: 8/10. Hobo with a Shotgun is effectively grindhouse doing what grindhouse does best – being flat-out outrageous, overdone and tremendous entertainment. It's savage, it's pacy and it's strange in all the right ways. It doesn't offer much terribly deep or meaningful, but it certainly is enjoyable and – unlike many entries in this series – isn't liable to leave any deep psychological scars. So it's a very solid 8/10 for this one.