*** Originally published on Ellenwood EP, 07/01/12 ***
Every now and then I’ll stumble on a movie that’s so unique, it’s like breath of fresh air from the stifling confines of mainstream cinema. It’s usually something bold, unapologetic and utterly fearless; a film that doesn’t need a big name or CG spaceships to keep my attention. One such recent discovery is The Gruesome Death of Tommy Pistol, a hilarious 3 vignette “meditation” on fame and the price people are willing to pay for stardom. The film won the award for Best Dark Comedy (2011) at the Polygrind Film Festival and has now been unleashed to the world courtesy of Breaking Glass Pictures.
The film centers around Tommy Pistol (writer/director Aramis Sartorio) who’s chasing his dream of becoming an actor. Sadly, he’s a little bit of a fuck up. After losing his day job (again), Tommy’s wife takes their son and moves out until he can figure out how to get his shit together. So, what’s a guy to do? Depressed, he decides to microwave a hot dog and watch some porn. As he “relaxes”, Tommy passes out and finds himself in a trio of bizarre dreams. In dream number one, a young and naive Tommy arrives in Los Angeles and lands his first acting gig: a snuff film! Never really understanding that he’s actually murdering people, he becomes a superstar (of sorts.) In the second dream, a slightly more industry-savvy version of our hero infiltrates an Arnold Schwarzenegger workout video and skins the former “Governator.” Wearing the flesh, Tommy tries to pass himself off as the international mega-star, but is immediately found out… and a crazy 88′s style martial arts showdown with the crew ensues. The third dream features a fully jaded Tommy directing a porn film. When his lead actress is bit by some sort of radioactive staph spider, all hell (and cysts) break loose. Will any of Tommy’s Hollywood dreams come true and if so, at what cost?
The budget for the film was an estimated $50,000 which is obviously nothing for a full length feature, but cinematographer Matt Holder does a great job making the film look like it cost twice as much. Sartorio is top-notch as the title character, but he shines as a director, getting wonderfully bizarre, comedic performances from his actors. Caleb Emerson (Die You Zombie Bastards!, Poultrygeist) is a delight playing a crazed (or crazy) producer and John Karyus (100 Million B.C., Death Racers) is particularly memorable in his role as the transexual, toilet-seat licking pervert, “Skanky”. The Gruesome Death of Tommy Pistol is pretty gory in an over the top Japanese/cartoon kind of way and features some pretty creative nastiness like a blood-powered Slip and Slide. Much of this brilliance was brought to life by F/X master Tom Devlin, a finalist in the make-up effects reality competition Face Off (Season 1).
As the film is packed with talented people, the disc is packed with plenty of special features. There’s a director’s commentary, behind the scenes featurette, interviews, trailers, slideshows, sketch comedy skits, hell, an entire sketch comedy show and more… this thing is loaded for bare. One of my absolute favorite extras, however, is the music video “DJ Tommy Pistol” with the film’s composer MC Comeczechmi. Also known as “The Rappin’ Russian”, Comeczechmi supplies surreal humor and catchy beats that meld perfectly with Sartorio’s twisted visions. It worked in the film and this video further illustrates how perfect their chemistry is. Honorable mention is the short “Spacecamp” starring Joanna Angel, which was originally seen on “Funny or Die”. Hilarious stuff.
I give The Gruesome Death of Tommy Pistol 4 out of 4 devils. If you enjoy dark, Troma-esque comedies with buckets of blood and oodles (yes, oodles) of imagination, this is for you. If you don’t like sophomoric humor and violence, you’re probably better off renting Toy Story 3. But I’ll tell you this, most movies don’t have the balls to pull off what Tommy Pistol does. More indie filmmakers should follow suit and dare themselves to think outside of the box. We know Hollywood won’t.