THE BACKYARD

5 Stars
Year Released: 2002
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Running Time: 80 minutes
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“Morons Amuck” might as well be the title of this fascinating emotional rollercoaster by director Paul Hough. Unlike those horrible and exploitative compilations of backyard wrestling stupidity hawked incessantly on late-night TV, this documentary approaches the subject with genuine curiosity and a lack of judgement that is responded to by the participants with amazing candor and a complete lack of pretension or humility. Not since “The Dancing Outlaw” have I seen such a mixture of tragedy and comedy, my emotions thrown this way and that.
Hough takes us on a tour of the Nevada desert (one look at the scenery will help explain why the people there do what they do), suburban Arizona, upstate New York and even a trip to central England to show us both the gruesome backyard matches themselves, and to get inside the heads (what remains of them) of the wrestlers, their supporters and fans.
Introduced by genuine WWF superstar Rob Van Dam, who is more than a little hesitant to actually endorse what goes on, the footage of the matches themselves will shock and disgust even hardened cult-movie fans. “Mundanes” (as the sci-fi crowd calls em) will be sickened and probably start writing their congressman before the film is even half over. If you’re looking for a way to alienate your parents, leave the website up on your screen. Guaranteed more effective than even swastika wallpaper.
Which brings up an interesting point barely touched on in the film: If we live in such a tightly-controlled society, why is there nothing done to stop these matches, or even to attempt to stop them? Where are the lawsuits? Where are the fundies, who are always claiming to want to protect our children? Where are the parents of these foolhardy idiots?
While underground video fans won’t be put off by the blood or the cruelty, the rampant stupidity and naivety of these people will astound you. Your mouth will be agape when Hough rolls out his coup de grace early in the movie: “Scar,” one of the most reckless and extreme wrestlers (now trying to become a promoter), and his parents, who actually support their son’s involvement in these bloody, ultraviolent, insanely dangerous fights. To Hough’s great credit, this segment isn’t at all like an episode of “Springer.”
As if that weren’t enough, Hough wisely puts a human (if nearly toothless) face to the sport by introducing us to “The Lizard,” the single most dedicated participant, fan and dreamer of backyard wrestling, bar none. He is the “Jesco White” of this movie, and he embodies the phrase “anti-hero” as few have ever done before him: we despise him, but we find ourselves rooting for him anyway. His story truly embodies the old joke “rebel without a clue.”
We also meet two brothers who torture out the rage and hate they feel for their missing father and the traumas of their childhood on each other (with their mother’s reluctant help); the girlfriends and other females who are alternately shocked by yet supportive of the violence and its aftermath; “The Retarded Butcher” and his screaming-but-impotent mom, a more-than-comic-book-level-shady “promoter” and many others, all equally unforgettable.
You will see people hurt by barbed wire and broken glass; you will see people rationalise risking permanent neck and spine injuries for an audience of one to three people; you will see people set on fire with only a damp towel nearby; you will see people laugh at the suffering and pain, and you will see blood, lots of it — some self-inflicted for the “show.”
Hough documents it all with an upturned eyebrow evident in his voice, but he tries to remain objective while communicating a sense of … well, almost a fondness for these imbeciles. Some of us will be drawn to this film in the way that our heart reaches out to the handicapped or retarded, all the while shaking our heads in disbelief; some will be attracted by the chance to laugh at white trash who are busily trying to kill each other.
In short, this is an x-treme documentary, as riveting as a road accident and a lot more bloody. That this film might give other young people ideas is something that keeps me (and probably director Hough) awake at night.



Posted on August 31, 2003 in Reviews by
Buffer


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