Review Date: September 13, 2002
Released by: Tempe Video
Release date: 7/23/2002
Region 1, NTSC
Full Frame 1.33:1
Have you ever had someone drag you to a party where you didn't know a single person? Even if you mingle a bit, you still feel like an outsider. They all use catch phrases and slang you haven't quite heard before, and they laugh hysterically at jokes that are totally unfunny to you. Well, I've found the cinematic equivalent of that kind of inside joke, and it's a micro-budget video called Townies. If you're in the mood to crash someone else's party, check out a copy on DVD from Tempe Video.
Oh man, this is gonna be tough. Well, first of all, we're introduced to a whole crew of "Townies". These are the homeless, mentally challenged, or just plain strange people that inhabit the small town of Schlarb, Ohio. While there seem to be several of these "townies", the main plot of the film (and I use "plot" in the absolute loosest sense of the word) mostly centers on three of them.
Dickie (Toby Radloff) is a dumpster diver. A couple of the local youth (AKA white trash) who pretend to be his friends suggest that he have sex with his fellow townie Crazy Connie (Michelle Sibits). Dickie's attempted drunken tryst doesn't work out very well, but that doesn't matter when he finds a dead body in a dumpster. Dickie takes the corpse home and…well, it's best not to think about it.
Pricey (Lori Scarlett) is mute and child-like. She roams the town with a stroller that contains a small doll that looks just like her. Pricey's day starts to get really bad when she finds a guy cooking up some squirrels. And it gets even worse. After being assaulted (well, I think that's what happens, they don't really make it too clear), she loses her doll, and replaces it with the next best thing: Her friend's young son.
Lastly, we have the exceptionally strange Caduceus (Shane Koltnow). Caduceus faces the wrath of several of the local citizens who like to "townie-bash" (That term isn't from the movie. I made it up). After a pair of lesbians run him down, Caduceus hunts down those who hurt him, for a case of townie revenge.
Ugh. I mean Ugh. This is as bad as it gets, seriously. First of all, I didn't even understand the TITLE of the damn movie! Maybe it means something different in Ohio, but I've always thought that "townies" are the hicks from small towns who go to the big cities to party on the weekends. They THINK they're cool, but they're still just a step behind the city trends. If you asked me, the supposed protagonists (the "normal" people) of this movie are the ones that I personally would refer to as "townies".
Misleading title notwithstanding, this is a lame attempt at a black comedy that only gets worse with repeated viewings (I had to watch it three times to get the gist of it for this review). It's a combination of Clerks and various John Waters movies, but with about 1% of the inspiration. Like I mentioned in the overview, this seems like one long inside joke. The people in the film seem to be characters created while drunk, which seemed funny at the time. I'm ok with this. But then they sobered up, and STILL made a movie based on those characters. There's an overwhelming feeling that the guys making this had an absolute blast, but never realized that this movie goes over the head of everyone unfamiliar with their jokes. In other words, everyone except those who made the damn movie.
From what I could figure out, the joke is about making fun of the mentally challenged and the homeless. OK, that's something everyone may have done at one point in his or her life, but there's certainly no reason to put those cruel jokes on film and then share them. I was hoping that the audio commentary would shed some light on things, but then I found that actor Toby Radloff is actually not too far off from the character he plays on screen. Which means that the filmmakers are laughing at him, and he either doesn't realize it or doesn't care. Radloff has been in other films for director Harold, and is going to be in more, so he obviously doesn't mind the joking at his expense. This isn't exceptionally cruel; a lot of groups have that one or two people who are the butt of all the jokes yet don't really mind. But again, THAT DOESNT MEAN I WANT TO SEE IT ON FILM!
The films released by Tempe Video are certainly hit-or-miss. None (that I've seen so far) are particularly GOOD, but most seem to have earnestness and a desire to create decent works. I think it would be great if some of the Tempe alumni move on to higher quality feature-length filmmaking. But Townies seems like a squandered effort on all counts. Wayne Alan Harold used his filmmaking knowledge to create a home video that is only of interest to himself and his friends. That's fine, of course, but not every home video needs to be released on DVD. This one sure doesn't.
Townies was shot on video, and it looks like it. Even worse, it's been enlarged, which means a significant loss in resolution. The picture is blocky and pixelated. I've seen some other Tempe films that were also shot on video, but they look a lot better. OK, Townies had a $300 budget, so this is as good as it can look. But maybe that's also a clue that they shouldn't have even bothered to put this out on DVD at all. It's black and white, in full frame, with no anamorphic enhancement.
Sound fares slightly better, but not by much. It's a Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo mix, and you do get some directionality in the sound effects. About 45 minutes in however, a slight fuzz and crackle develops, which only makes the final 20 minutes of the movie even more painful to watch. Of course, we don't expect any surround effects or even a rich sound mix, but it should at least be free of distortion. This disc is not.
Ordinarily I'd applaud a DVD with as many extra features as Townies, but in this case it only meant I'd have to spend more time with the disc. Director Wayne Alan Harold and three of the "stars" of the movie, Toby Radloff, P. Craig Russell, and Jay Geldhof provide a running commentary. So now I had to sit through the film again, just to hear these guys talk about it. And believe me, they don't make this muddled mess of a movie any clearer. In fact, they get progressively drunk as it goes on, and recommend the listeners do the same. I'd agree here. If you drink enough, you can start to forget things in the recent past, and maybe one of those things you can forget is Townies.
One thing I learned in the commentary is that Toby Radloff's portrayal of Dickie isn't really an act. That's the way this guy IS! (Well, he doesn't dumpster dive, but the speech pattern is for real). So naturally there are plenty of features that are just dedicated to Toby. The "Toby Radloff, Genuine Nerd" feature is a 7-minute interview where Toby updates his fans on his disappearance from MTV and what he's been doing since the Killer Nerd movies. The "web segments" are 3 short bits from Toby that appear on the Lurid website. I'm gonna take their word for it; I'm not about to go to their site and verify it.
Some mildly amusing outtakes and behind-the-scenes footage (about 16 minutes worth) are included. Harold's next feature will be Aberration Boulevard, and we get a clip from that, too. Yes, the ubiquitous Radloff stars in this one as well. Then there's some trailers, for Townies and several other Tempe films. Finally, we have a Wayne Alan Harold short film, Payback is a Bitch. This is your basic rape/revenge story, though it's a lot better made than Townies. At least it's fairly coherent.
Finally, though not listed on the cover, you can easily find an 18-minute clip from an Ohio television station with an interview with Wayne Alan Harold, Mark Steven Bosko, and J.R. Bookwalter. This was done sometime in the mid 90s, when Harold was making his film Girlfriends.
I've actually enjoyed some of the fare from Tempe Video. I felt Hell Asylum showed quite a bit of promise for a shot-on-video movie (apparently so did Stuart Gordon, who is producing Death Bed, the next film from Hell Asylum director Danny Draven). But there is nothing, and I mean nothing, worth recommending about Townies. I'm glad that Wayne Alan Harold and his friends can have such a great time making these little home videos. Really, I am. But that doesn't mean I have to find it even remotely entertaining. And I don't.
Movie - D-
Image Quality - D-
Sound - D-
Supplements - C
- Running Time - 1 hour 11 minutes
- Not Rated
- 1 Disc
- Chapter Stops
- 24 Chapter Stops
- English Dolby 2.0 Stereo
- Commentary track with director Wayne Alan Harold and stars Toby Radloff, P. Craig Russell, and Jay Geldhof
- Outtakes and behind-the-scenes
- "Toby Radloff, Genuine Nerd" interview
- Toby Radloff web segments
- Original Trailer
- "Payback is a Bitch" short film
- Aberration Boulevard preview
- Still Gallery
- Tempe Trailers