ENTER THE DEN OF SIN: ARE THESE GUYS RETARDED?

Taking a break from the usual blood and gore, my fiancé decided to add an air of culture to the proceedings and programed a couple of docos. However, in typical Den of Sin fashion, these were not your usual “educational” flicks. Our first selection was the understated and not exploitive “Jefftowne”, the chronicle of a middle aged man with Down Syndrome who likes drinking, porn and wrestling. This was followed by one of the most eye-opening movies I’ve seen in a long time: “The Backyard” which attempts and succeeds to shed light on the troubling and oddly inspiring pastime of backyard wrestling.

It was a strong turnout again with 9 people in attendance including all of the usual suspects. “Jefftowne” was first and I have to say we were a bit thrown off by the introduction by Lloyd Kaufman and the director Daniel Krauss, complete with a couple of Tromettes. I understand that Troma releases a number of films every year that don’t fit the typical “Troma” mold, but in light of what our crowd was accustomed to what followed fell very short of the peanut gallery’s expectations. I think that this was my fiancé’s first major programming mistake (“Dragonstorm” doesn’t count because he programmed it deliberately to be evil). It certainly wasn’t that it was a bad film necessarily, it was more that the pace and tone were completely wrong for our audience.

The gist of the film is simple enough, perhaps too simple: in long, seemingly unrelated vignettes we follow Jeff Towne as he goes about his life. We meet his physically disabled elderly foster mother who seems to be counting on the Publisher’s Clearinghouse sweepstakes to get her through retirement. We meet his boss and colleagues at the movie theater where he works. We watch him drink beer. We see some of his drawings, all depicting his favorite pornos. We listen to stories of his “wacky” behavior, which includes kleptomania and inappropriate touching of female co-workers. Then comes the revelation that he probably knows what he’s doing is wrong and uses his disability as a way to scam free drinks and cheap feels. All of this is fine and well, except that most of the interesting action happens off screen (in stories) and any commentary from Jeff is obtained through leading questions by his friends or the director.

Easily the most interesting part of the film was when the director decided to give Jeff a crack behind the camera to make his own movie. Although Jeff’s commentary is largely unintelligible, the images he captures are a hundred times more compelling than watching Jeff run around a costume shop and try on various getups or stand in line to meet William Shatner, which are scenes that appear in the main part of the film. Yeah, we get it, people with disabilities like drinking and sex too. Personally, I think it would have been more effective as a fifteen minute short, maybe with Jeff’s short added as a coda. Even at a scant 60 minutes, the peanut gallery was bored and restless. It was time to kick it up a notch.

Get in The Backyard in part two of ENTER THE DEN OF SIN: ARE THESE GUYS RETARDED?>>>




Posted on June 9, 2004 in Features by
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