Saturday, May 3, 2008

Storywh0re goes to the Nashville Film Festival, Part I: Trailer Park of Terror

Last week, I was lucky enough to spend two evenings at the Nashville Film Festival. This is the first year that the Film Festival has officially categorized their late-night showings.

The first night, I saw Trailer Park of Terror, based on the Imperium comic book series of the same name. It was directed by award-winning music video director Steven Goldmann. Several of the film's stars were there, including Trace Adkins, who has a running cameo as the Devil himself.

The film begins with the tragic story of Norma, a young woman who tries to run away with her fiancee to escape the baseness and poverty of the trailer park where she lives. (A few small details, including the opening graphics and a later newscast, set the story solidly in our own beloved Middle Tennessee.) The ensuing confrontation is a perfect illustration of the “crabs-in-a-bucket” phenomenon: if the people around Norma can't get out, they don't want her to, either. When the lecherous redneck men who control the community accidentally kill Norma's fiancee, and the Devil helps her get her due.

The film picks up a few years later, with a youth ministry group of troubled teenagers whose bus wrecks on a rainy night. They soon find that Norma and her neighbors are still in the trailer park, and don't plan on letting them go.

If you don't like horror movies, Trailer Park of Terror is obviously not for you. If you do, however, then you will consider it an almost perfect example of the form. It's campy supernatural horror, more akin to Rob Zombie's movies than to the self-important solemnity of The Ring. The characters, while they hardly need to be three-dimensional, are distinctive and well-acted. It is highly gory, with elements of sexual and psychological cruelty. There are a lot of dark laughs, but there is also one scene in particular that had me wishing for a character's suffering to end.

Trailer Park of Terror operates on typical horror movie morality, with death and dismemberment as the consequences for sex and drug use. (Interestingly, this provides the context for some of the most beautiful drug visuals I've ever seen in a movie.) The one character who sees the light of of the following morning might be the last one you'd expect; but then, as with all horror movies, we're here to see the protagonists die, even if we're ostensibly rooting for them.

While I actually enjoy a good horror flick more than many people, my favorite part was the music. It runs the gambit, from songs by Adkins to heavy metal to what can best be described, to borrow from Rob Zombie, as Hellbilly--Heavy Metal with a mixed retro gothic and rockabilly aesthetic.

It was interesting to stay afterwards, and hear Goldmann talk about the frenetic 18-day process of filming the movie. Trace Adkins joked that he signed on just for the Devil's “pissin' scene”.
Goldmann said that he made Trailer Park of Terror for Southerners, that he wanted us to consider it “Our fuckin' horror movie”. I have mixed feelings about this. Norma's trailer park at the beginning represents a very extreme picture of only one slice of Southern culture. At the same time, it rings true enough for Southerners to appreciate it; and he did get one thing right: we really do deep fry everything.

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