Smash Cut Review
Written by: The Divemistress
I once asked a question of Lee Demarbre at a panel. I don't remember the answer I got, but I do remember the panel members made a point of letting me ask my question. Also, I wore pink.
My first, and I what I expected would be my last encounter with Demarbre was Jesus Christ Vampire Hunter. It was on TVO or something at 3am. Ten minutes in, I turned it off. It's not like I made a deal with myself to never watch another movie by Demarbre, I just made sure the films I did watch were of a slightly higher caliber, or budget, so as to reduce my chances of being subject to the man's "art".
And then I heard about Smash Cut. I figured, it's been years since JCVH, and the guy's got a few more notches in his belt, Smash Cut has to be better than that first film all those long years ago. Still, I was entirely prepared to hate Smash Cut. In fact, I was kind of looking forward to not liking it. I pressed play and sank into the couch with anticipation, just waiting for the moment when I would release my hatred and disdain with a derisive bark of laughter.
I don't know much about Hershell Gordon Lewis. That is to say, I know as much as anybody who is passively interested in horror (which is not to suggest I'm passive, I'm just busy). I know he made campy, blood-drenched films in the 60s, and continued to pursue that same aesthetic through most of his career. Blood Feast was the first splatter film, and served as the inspiration for numerous filmmakers, including fictional ones. In Austin Williams' book, "Crimson Orgy," Sheldon Meyer is trying to make his own splatter film and, at one point, contemplates using real body parts as props.
In Smash Cut, David Hess does the same thing. He thinks about using corpses in his movie, and then he does. And then he can't stop. It's a little unclear whether Hess' character, Whitman, is more taken with the reality and credibility the blood and guts lend his film, or with the murdering because oh boy, does he ever love the murder. I'd be inclined to argue the latter simply because the film Whitman is making has yet to be seen or critiqued by anyone. So Whitman just keeps on killing, occasionally stopping to indulge in some recursive dialogue with his screenwriter. This is, of course, more to Smash Cut than just David Hess murdering people, but it largely distracts from the story of a homicidal David Hess.
I never did get to enjoy that cathartic moment I was so hoping for, instead I found some kind of sick pleasure in not hating Smash Cut. For all its bad acting, terrible writing, and continuity errors, there's some fun to be had. And I'm not just talking about picking out Ottawa landmarks. The film is purposefully campy, and only mildly self-conscious, so it mostly succeeds in capturing the HG Lewis aesthetic. Plus the man himself makes an appearance. Score one for Demarbre.