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Saturday, May 21, 2011

Run! Bitch Run!: Retro Rape Revenge

run bitch run2It would be somewhat of an understatement if I were to say that there has been an oversaturation of Exploitation cinema since the release of 2007's Tarantino/Rodriguez double feature, Grindhouse (though, the gears were in motion well beforehand). There have been many ups and downs that have come with this oversaturation, with one of the ups being that many films of the era have been given some recognition as well as a greater shot at seeing some sort of release on home video. However, what has been more notable than the rise in popularity of actual films of the time are the numerous, modern-made throwbacks to '70s Exploitation and Grindhouse movies that have flooded the market in both the mainstream and independent markets.

From remakes of genre classics like The Last House on the Left and I Spit on Your Grave, to original films such as Machete and Piranha 3D, films influenced by the cinema of the '70s has been given a small presence in the mainstream market. Then there are the independently made films that have been shoveled out at genre fans over the past few years. Movies such as Bitch Slap, Hobo With A Shotgun and today's feature, Run! Bitch Run!, attempt to capture an era of cinema that has long passed us by. Much like the films of that time, these throwbacks have been met with mixed results by genre fans, and rightfully so.

One of the many problems that come with recreating a style of film from the past (specifically with independent features) can be the filmmakers try way too hard to make something that really cannot be easily recreated in this day in age. Instead, they end up making movies that are simply transparent, lacking an identity as the focus becomes more about the homage, and less about the actual content. In addition, the style can often be used as an excuse for poor filmmaking, with many claiming that said film is meant to be bad because it's like a grindhouse film. That is, quite frankly, a steaming crock of corn filled doo-doo.

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With Run! Bitch Run!, director Joseph Guzman is somewhat able to avoid the issue of making a completely inept movie with the excuse of it being a throwback to Exploitation cinema. And while the film does sort of lack its own identity, it does a nice job of capturing the look and vibe of a '70s exploitation flick. 

The film follows two catholic schoolgirls, Catherine (Cheryl Lyone) and Rebecca (Christina DeRosa), who are trying to earn some cash for college by selling bibles door-to-door (see where this one's going?). Their smut peddling hits the brakes when one of the doors they go to just so happens to be the door to hell (well, not literally), and the two girls become abducted after they witness the murder of a prostitute by a scuzzy white pimp - who never wears a shirt AND has long hair - named Lobo (Peter Tahoe). Lobo and his small but viscous gang murder Rebecca in cold blood then brutally torture and rape Catherine, leaving her for dead. Or so they think…

If you've seen more than one rape/revenge film in your lifetime, you should have a good idea where this one is going.

Being set in the 1970s, Guzman and co. surprisingly do a commendable job recreating the vibe of a '70s Exploitation film. The locations are simple but feel authentic, and the same could be said for the movie as a whole. Run! Bitch Run! is not quite as sleazy as I would have expected, but it's not nearly as ridiculous, either, which works both positively and negatively for the film. Where it succeeds best is with attention to technique as well as an air of subtlety that keeps everything reigned in. There are moments where things do go a little over-the-top (like a plunger masturbation scene), but for a film such as this it never goes too far, therefore the movie avoids coming off as overly goofy.

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Run! Bitch Run! is veeery simplistic and also feels somewhat rushed, too. Not to say that this one should be any longer than it is, mind you, it's just the amount of time spent with naked chicks could have been properly distributed elsewhere (what am I saying?!). One of the big problems is just how standard it is as a revenge film. The story follows the basic three-tiered act of your typical rape/revenge tale, however, there is very little done to separate it from the pack, leaving the viewer with what is no more than a carbon copy of movies that are vastly superior.   

For the type of movie that it is, Run! Bitch Run! is unfortunately very hallow is in its impact. Now, I should make clear that I love the rape/revenge genre. I'm not one to try and claim that so-and-so film is not one that you can actually love because of its specific subject matter; that has always seemed like a bit of a copout to me, personally. I love the genre as a whole, and just because I do, doesn't make me a fan of rape. I don't 'like' the rape page on facebook, but I do 'like' the Ms. 45 one, if that makes sense. So when I say that it's unfortunate that the rape in Run! Bitch Run! is a tad underwhelming, please don't take it the wrong way. 

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The rape scene is not nearly as impactful as it should be for a film of this style, and for a rape/revenge movie (and one that's somewhat trying to be serious), that can really take away from the intensity of the subject matter. There is very little as far as an emotional impact, and because it didn't hit me in the gut like it should have, it's difficult to generate any real sympathy for the Catherine character, let alone care/cheer for her forthcoming moment of vengeful rebirth. It seems as if this moment was just there to be there to serve the story, instead of to drive the character.

Regardless, Run! Bitch Run! redeems itself by going out with a bang, and the last 8 or so minutes of the film are completely and totally satisfying. Overall, what we have here is a movie that actually does a nice job capturing what it set out to on an aesthetic level, but still seems to lack the heart of what made Exploitation films of the '70s so great. I'll gladly give Run! Bitch Run! a ton of props for doing things better than most modern, cheap Exploitation films, I just wish they were able to go all the way with what was started.  

10 comments:

  1. Part of me wants to see this just because of the title. Your review does seem a little ambivalent to the actual film itself. But maybe if I go into it knowing that the rape scene is half assed, I'll enjoy it a little better. Great review!

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  2. I actually liked it for what it was. It came a hell of a lot closer to being a great exploitation flick than the Tarantino/Rodriguez thing because of its harsh sleaze and good nudity. I can't get off on rape but I sure can with good nude scenes.

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  3. lobo was the name of a character from cannibal hookers a movie so bad you just have to see it.

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  4. "One of the many problems that come with recreating a style of film from the past (specifically with independent features) can be the filmmakers try way too hard to make something that really cannot be easily recreated in this day in age."

    That pretty much sums up how I feel about the trend of exploitation/grindhouse tribute films that have been popping up. I have high hopes for HOBO WITH A SHOTGUN because of all the positive things I've heard about it, but a few of the movies I've seen from this exploitation renaissance have been shit. Your review of this one has me curious, though. There's another recent rape/revenge movie that I read about in HorrorHound magazine and wanted to check out, but I can't remember the name of it.

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  5. Nice review. I watched this one a while back and was pretty impressed with it, for what it was. I'm kind of a sucker for the whole "throwback" thing, although I admit there are a fair share of them that aren't done very successfully. Still, I thought this one worked pretty admirably.

    My review, if you're interested.

    --J/Metro

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  6. Huh, can't say that I've seen this one--I did read a review for it a while back on the website Oh the Horror! As far as rape/revenge goes, the most recent ones that I've watched were both versions of I Spit on Your Grave and Hitch-Hike. I'm still waiting to see Death Weekend (which I can watch anytime on YouTube actually) and House By the Edge of the Park.

    As you can tell I don't really have a problem with this genre of movies either (for the most part) because the rapists get what's coming to them. The one exception is Death Wish 2--ugh, I saw that as a 12 year old girl (what can I say, my mom was pretty liberal when it came to movies) and was traumatized after seeing the sleazy multiple rape scenes! Yikes!

    I'm not sure if this was the movie that Aaron was talking about, but there is a new r/r movie in the works called Skinny Dip starring Sasha Grey, Michael Madsen, Pam Grier, Danny Trejo and Brigette Nielsen--how about that cast?--that is definetely in the exploitation vein. There is an article about the movie on FanGirlTastic, which is where I read about it.

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  7. Whoops, that should read House on the Edge of the Park, my bad. In any case I still plan on watching it sometime!

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  8. M. Hufstader: Thanks a lot!

    Even if you're even slightly interested, I would say it's worth a watch. It's decent for what it is, and so long as you have an idea what you're getting into, you should be semi-entertained by it.

    Xploit: I can't say I don't love me some naked ladies! It certainly does come a lot closer to an Exploitation film than either Planet Terror or Death Proof, though, I do find that both of those films stand on their own outside of being Exploitation throwbacks.

    Anon: Oh, wow. The IMDB score of 2.2 is certainly enticing, and the screen shoots and clips I found don't hurt any either! Sounds like my cup of crap!

    Aaron: I love the idea of such a resurgence and how the Exploitation style has influenced some filmmakers, but more often than not, most of the shit put out is just that. Shit. I am pretty excited for Hobo, however, I was pretty excited for Black Dynamite, too, a film that I didn't necessarily dislike, but it wasn't all that great outside of a few funny moments and MJW's performance.

    Metro: Thanks, man, and I'll definitely check out your review! I agree for the most part. For what it is, it does a decent enough job, but it does lack in a few areas that make a good rape/revenge film a good rape/revenge film. Still, Run! Bitch Run! does a much better job at feeling like an Exploitation film than most others that are put out these days. And I am like you, I'm a sucker for throwbacks, but it's so often that they are not at all what we hope they will be.

    Dorian: That is a great cast. I looked into it a little and a trailer didn't come up, but I'll keep my eyes and ears perked for it.

    I am a big fan of the original I Spit on Your Grave. Haven't seen the remake, but I do plan on doing so soon with moderate expectations. I actually really liked the remake of The Last House on the Left, mostly because it did some things to separate itself from the original (which is one of my favorite exploitation films) by fixing the problems found within the that film.

    As for Death Wish 2, the best way to cleanse your palate after a multiple rape scene is to watch both Death Wish 3 and 4…trust me, you will feel okay by the end!

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  9. Great review Matt. I watched this a few months ago and had similar thoughts that you summed up rather brilliantly. I kind of admire this film, but I personally just didn't care for it. I totally get what they were going for and think they came closer than a lot of bigger budgeted retrosploitation flicks.

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  10. Thanks Emily! If more filmmakers could nab the aesthetic as well as Run! Bitch Run! does, then I think there could be a lot more decent throwbacks then there are now. I do enjoy some of them, but mostly they are tiresome and lack any sort of charm.

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