Hobo With a Shotgun
Directed by: Jason Eisener
Starring: Rutger Hauer, Brian Downey
3 out of 5
If you are going to make a horror film, go for broke. Indulge in its foreboding dread, accentuated shadows, excessive gore, and immoral integrity. Just don’t cop out. While it is frustrating to see a film cheat its intended audience, there is nothing worse than it ruining an entire genre.
Horror films of the Northern American mold have suffered greatly. Neutered, branded, and left sanitized by the PG 13 rating, an ever-growing conservatism has sought to make these pictures tamer and more profitable to the masses.
Like watching nostalgia played through a dusty VCR, Hobo With a Shotgun arrives seemingly out of the sewers from a parallel 1980s universe.
Delivering a psychotic fervor, it is comparable to the low-budget, grindhouse pictures it obviously pays homage to. But Hobo With a Shotgun does it better, hell-bent on offending anyone and everyone. Depraved visions of exaggerated gore, mass murder and human entrails wash the screen like an abstract painter to their canvas. Hobo will repel and sicken many, but therein lies its vivacity as a true trash pastiche.
Based off a fake trailer made for Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez’s movie Grindhouse, Hobo has been fleshed out by director Jason Eisener without noticeable lag. The story follows a nameless hobo (Rutger Hauer) riding a train into HellTown, a city of poverty and rampant corruption, controlled by a villainous cretin named Drake (Brian Downey).
Alongside his berserk sons, Slick (Gregory Smith) and Ivan (Nick Bateman), they find gratification in breaking bones, setting children on fire, and drowning their noses in ludicrous amounts of cocaine.
While mayhem engulfs the city streets, the hobo, with the help of a gold-hearted hooker (Molly Dunsworth), decides justice comes with a shotgun, one shell at a time.
Cranked to the limit, from acting to camera compositions, the film leaves little time to digest everything that is thrown on screen. It is not enough to be slightly deranged in order to conceive a movie like Hobo With a Shotgun – it takes passion.
A vagrant who disposes of scum with a shotgun is too easy. To succeed on this level of vileness takes a sense of humour, juggling tones of comedy, graphic violence, and the human condition.
Apart from providing the crackling vigilante storyline, writer John Davies instills Hobo with some unexpected sentiment and oddly memorable monologues from the steely-haired Hauer. Consider the scene in which he is taken back to the hooker’s bed to rest after having a knife thrust into him. As he is given a shirt to wear, the emblem of a cartoon bear adorning his chest causes him recall thoughts on the animal, developing a quiet exchange between both characters, not feeling forced, but instead creating depth.
Credit not only Eisener and Davies for this balance, but also the conviction of Hobo’s cast, invigorating characters beyond the point of simple sketches. Rutger Hauer, a superb talent for the past four decades, creates a lived-in being.
The camera catches his worn face and eyes as Eisener smartly uses it to the film’s advantage. Oddly enough, Hauer’s hobo does not thirst for blood intentionally; he only wants money to buy a lawnmower to start his own grass-cutting business.
Hobo With a Shotgun not only pays tribute to 1970s and 1980s exploitation films, it mirrors the direct-to-video heyday verbatim. Encouraging jeers and cheers, stylistic devices are brilliantly supplied to back the excitement by way of a muffled synthesized score and cinematography saturated in Technicolor graininess.
Although a hard ‘R’ rating comes accordingly, Eisener thinks outside the box to earn it, devising new ways to destroy the human body with absurd mutilations, shot- gunned castrations, and an ice skate to the torso – all done with tongue firmly placed in cheek.
Some may condemn the film’s perpetual bad taste, but to do so would be to miss its bizarre blending of humour and nightmarish visuals. It is not just enough to have a man decapitated with barbed wire; the film takes it further, having a woman in a white bikini soak and gyrate in his blood.