Aug 7, 2014
For the past couple years or so, I have been passively watching the progression of A List star James Franco’s career from dopey Hollywood pothead heartthrob to ostensibly serious self-funded arthouse auteur and thus far I have not liked much of what I have seen. Indeed, from his mundanely minimalistic Sal Mineo biopic Sal (2011) to his pathetically pretentious pomo homo piece of senseless sod-saluting shit Interior. Leather Bar. (2013), Franco has demonstrated he is an art film hack who is still making highly derivative formative works despite the fact that he directed his first feature The Ape (2005)—a horrendous hipster indie comedy featuring a ‘cool’ ape that would make Marco Ferreri cringe in disgust—nearly a decade ago. Of course, it is also rather pathetic that assumed heterosexual Franco has largely dedicated his directing career to pandering to poofs and queens, as if it will somehow make him more artistic and subversive, even though being pro-fag is arguably the most trendy socio-political persuasion nowadays. While it may be a tad bit presumptuous of me to say, I think it is safe to say that Franco is never going to be a Pasolini, Fassbinder, or even a Ferrara, but his latest feature Child of God (2013) at least proves that he has finally developed an inkling of talent and skill as a filmmaker. Based on the lesser known 1973 Cormac McCarthy novel of the same, Franco’s latest effort is a sort of grotesque Southern Gothic (anti)Heimat flick as haunted by the spirit of Ed Gein. Indeed, drenched in blood, semen, and shit, Child of God is a sort of semi-scatological tale about a feral man in a feral land who becomes all the more murderous and sexually unhinged as he further self-segregates himself from an already secluded society to the point where he becomes a literal caveman and engages in nocturnal necrophilia. So, what does a nice Jewish boy like James Franco know about a confederate corpse-fucking and cross-dressing hillbillies?! Probably less than Steven Spielberg knows about sexual penetration, yet somehow the film manages to mostly work, which probably largely has to do with the fact that lead actor Scott Haze (who previously starred in Franco’s 2013 Faulkner adaptation As I Lay Dying and will star in a number of Franco’s upcoming films) was so committed to the role that he moved into a shitty remote cabin in Southern Bumfuck (Sevierville, Tennessee, where the original novel was set), lost 50lbs, and even spent some time living in caves to prepare himself for playing a uniquely unflattering role that tells me the actor is no limp-wristed pansy, but a deadly serious actor who has no problem ramming his rectum with a large tree branch if need be. A film in the degenerated Prussian-American proletarian spirit of sexually perverted serial killers like Ed Gein and Carl Panzram, Child of God is country fried black crypto-comedy where Franco seems to have attempted to make his very own version of Werner Herzog’s Stroszek (1977), as work that depicts pre-multicultural 1960s stars-and-bars America as an unholy breeding ground for some of the world’s most misbegotten and decidedly dysgenic Europids (of course, nowadays America not only has some of the most miserably mongrelized whites on this planet, but also an unsavory selection of genetically damned mystery meat). An absolutely poisonous celluloid American pie in three acts (just like McCarthy’s novel), Child of God is an unwitting reminder as to why the land of the kultur-free and the daringly depraved has spawned some of the most idiosyncratic serial killers in world history.
As one of the film's various unnamed narrators states regarding meta-hick antihero (Scott Haze) at the very beginning of Child of God, “He was of German and Irish bloods. His name was Lester Ballard — a child of God, much like yourself, perhaps.” A seemingly half-retarded and aggressively autistic ‘adult orphan’ whose mother abandoned him when he was a wee lad and whose father committed suicide via hanging when he was only nine or ten years old, Lester is ultimately condemned to an animalistic state of perennial homelessness and isolation when his family farm in Sevier County, Tennessee is auctioned off against his will. Of course, Lester tries in vain to keep the farm by screaming things like, “MOVE, MOVE, MOVE…THIS IS MY PROPERTY,” at prospective buyers while menacingly brandishing his beloved rifle, which is more or less an extra limb, but a grouchy old fart soon gets tired of his violently juvenile antics and hits him in the back of the skull with the back on an ax, thus causing the antihero to scream hysterically like a a freshly excreted newborn in what ultimately ushers in the beginning of his new life as a cracked country hobo. With nothing left to lose, Lester treks to no man’s land and ultimately finds himself squatting in a shack owned by some old geezer. Not long after arriving in the area, Lester happens upon a rather unsympathetic half-naked slag (Elena McGhee) who has just been gang-raped and although the deranged loner does not rape her, he smacks her around a little bit (to Lester’s minor credit, she deserved it). Out of spite and just to be an insufferable bitch who is starving for attention, the rape victim falsely accuses Lester of sexually pillaging her, thus resulting in his arrest by a certain Sheriff Fate (Hebrew Tim Blake Nelson portraying a hick) and his proud philistine deputy Cotton (True Blood star Jim Parrack). While in prison, Lester attempts to befriend a murderous negro named “Nigger John” who, as he states himself, is in jail for, “cutting a mother fucker’s head off with a pocket knife.” After singing a melancholy negro spiritual, Nigger John tells Lester that, “white pussy’s nothing but trouble,” which is certainly something the antihero will learn on his own, as a man that will develop a strong affinity for postmortem white cooch. After being released from prison and being warned by Sheriff Fate that if he does not straighten out his next crime will by murder, Lester goes back to wandering around aimlessly, though he does make friends with three giant stuffed animals that he won playing a shooting game at a local carnival. Lester also realizes he has an affinity for wild birds after he catches a pigeon with his bare hands and bites off its head in a scene that marks the end of the first act of the film.
During the second act of Child of God, Lester falls in love for the first time upon happening upon on a running car containing two dead young lovers who have assumedly made a suicide pact. With a lifeless babe (Nina Ljeti) who cannot say “no” or insult him being in front of his rather weary yet hopelessly horny eyes, Lester begins fondling the cutesy corpse’s sensual breasts and sniffs its underwear, but of course, he does not stop there, as he is a man of preternatural tastes who, being a rather bestial good ol' boy, lacks self-control. Indeed, Lester does not think twice about committing necrophilia with the young nubile corpse, as he pounds the postmortem pussy so hard that the car begins to shake. Not a man to let something go to waste, especially in regard to a cold gash, Lester brings the corpse back to his house and makes it his girlfriend, even buying it an expensive red dress and making it dinner. Of course, all good things must come to an end and after a fire breaks out at Lester’s shack as a result of his own negligence, the aberrant antihero not only loses his shelter, but also his rotting lover and one of his “friends” (aka a big stuffed teddy bear). Now permanently homeless and completely isolated from the rest of humanity, Lester the corpse-molester completely loses whatever little bit of sanity he had left. Indeed, becoming increasingly paranoid, Lester accuses his only two remaining friends—a stuffed lion and a stuffed teddy bear—of betraying him and executes both of them with his rifle while crying and screaming hysterically, thus concluding the second act of the film. Needless to say, Lester plans to go on the hunt for some young teenage pootenanny and he is not going to let anyone stop him on his crazed crusade for crusty corpse cunts.
While only a novice necro during the second act of the film, Lester becomes a serial necrophile killer during the third and final act. Indeed, Lester begins to prey on teenage lovers who make the ultimately fatal mistake of driving out to the middle of the country to make love, as it gives the renegade redneck recluse the opportunity to murder and sexually ravage unlikely young dames in relative comfort without being caught by the cops. After killing the couples, Lester takes the female corpses with him so that he can get down and dirty for nights to come. Now a neo-caveman of sorts, Lester has turned a large mountainside cave into his own personal pleasure-dome where he keeps his various corpse concubines. Taking inspiration from the Ed Gein playbook of country style corpse-copulating, Lester also engages in necrophilic cross-dressing and even sports the scalp of a blonde babe who he had previously shot execution style. Indeed, one day while in his deranged tranny persona, Lester decides to start shooting at an old farmer he does not like, but the farmer shoots back and severely wounds the sexually confused lunatic. Of course, Lester adamantly refuses to confess to Sheriff Fate in regard to his dastardly deeds, so a softcore lynch mob, which includes auteur James Franco, decides to take the law into their own hands. Before putting a noose around Lester's rather red neck, the mob of rightfully angry gun-totting hicks offer to spare the necrophile if he agrees to show them where he hid the corpses of his victims. Of course, as a lifelong loner and wilderness-rooted feral man with an uncanny talent for self-preservation, Lester manages to escape after leading the lynch mob to a cave where he makes his getaway via a small tunnel. As to what happens to the antihero after that is anyone’s guess, but one can only assume he probably upped the ante in terms of his murderous necrophilic conquests.
A rare example of true Americana artsploitation cinema, Child of God is meticulously assembled celluloid trash with a little bit of curious country style class that is, for better or worse, easily the most subversive cinematic Cormac McCarthy adaptation ever made. Irrationally hated by both film critics and filmgoers alike, Franco’s fiercely foul flick is certainly an unhinged exercise in (sub)human excess that is probably nothing short of aesthetic terrorism for most viewers, hence its strange charm. Indeed, undoubtedly the most poetic, aberrantly artful, and semi-cryptically misanthropic film about necrophilia since Jörg Buttgereit’s two arthouse splatter flicks, NEKRomantik (1987) and its sequel NEKRomantik 2 (1991), Child of God offends people not only because it forces (or at least attempts to) the viewer to empathize with an illiterate corpse-fucking serial killer, but also because it depicts such abject human depravity in such an objective yet somewhat eloquently directed way that it reminds viewers that they too have the capacity to act like rabid animals that fiddle with their own feces, fucks corpses, and kill without remorse were they to face similarly less than ideal circumstances in their lives. Taking notes from Pier Paolo Pasolini’s 1975 cinematic swansong Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom, which Franco himself reviewed about a year ago, the film even features an extended scene early on where the antihero defecates and begins roughly wiping himself with a girthy phallic-like tree branch, as if he is attempting to put his shit back into his bunghole. Indeed, Franco clearly did not make the film for those preteen fangirls whose panties moisten at the mere mention of his name, nor did he make the flick to cater to the dubious tastes of mainstream film critics with patently pathetic neo-liberal/cultural Marxist political agendas, as the wickedly wanton work is confederate political incorrectness in blood-flavored and fecal-frosted form. Somewhat notably, Child of God is not Franco's first cinematic excursion in corpse-fucking art, as he previously directed a 14-minute short entitled Herbert White (2010) based on a poem by gay American poet Frank Bidart starring filmic crazy man Michael Shannon as a bourgeois family man who moonlights as a Edmund Kemper-esque serial-killing necrophile. Like John Boorman’s Deliverance (1972) meets the director’s buddy Harmony Korine’s Gummo (1997), albeit minus the Semitic spastic slapstick, Franco’s film may be somewhat derivative and sloppily assembled in parts, but it ultimately proves the actor turned auteur filmmaker’s career may be worth following after all. Indeed, if Franco ever gets the gall to adapt something like D.H. Lawrence’s The Plumed Serpent (1926) or Jean Raspail’s The Camp of the Saints (1973) aka Le Camp des saints, he will have finally earned my respect. Amerikkkan Heimat horror from hick hell, Child of God is also a rare film that makes me proud of being an American, which is certainly no small accomplishment, especially since Hollywood reminds me of everything I hate about America.
Posted by Soiled Sinema at 4:47 AM
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