Written by: Adam Brooks, Matthew Kennedy, and Conor Sweeney
Directed by: Adam Brooks, Matthew Kennedy
Starring: Paz de la Huerta, Adam Brooks, and Matthew Kennedy
Reviewed by: Brett Gallman
He'll leave you on the cutting room floor!
The folks at Astron-6 are my kind of people. Where so many filmmakers are obsessed with recapturing and paying tribute to 80s slashers, they’ve taken aim at another era and sub-genre—hell, they’ve taken aim at an entirely different continent, as The Editor stitches together various strands of Eurohorror into a crazy quilt that blends the line between parody and homage. Don’t get me wrong: I (and I am guessing Astron-6) love 80s slashers, but if there’s one genre that can rival it, it would be the deranged, fevered batch of films during the Eurohorror prime: the gialli, the vaguely supernaturally-themed mysteries, and the general exercises in “what the fuck was that?” filmmaking. All of them are well-represented here by a group who gets this material but aren’t afraid to poke some fun at it, too.
Gialli are the most obvious reference points since The Editor is about a giallo in progress. Once an acclaimed editor, Rey Ciso (Adam Brooks) now toils away on low-rent horror movies, much to the dismay of his burnout wife (Paz de la Huerta), a former actress who now lounges in obscurity. Art begins to imitate life when Rey’s current blood-spattered project turns into a blood-soaked set when a rash of gruesome murders begins to claim the actors and other crew members. Much of the evidence—including the murderer’s choice to remove the same three fingers Rey himself once hacked off of his own hand—points to the editor, though anyone with even a passing familiarity with this subgenre knows that it never proceeds in the straightest, most obvious line.
As the story unfolds, it’s clear that Astron-6 is well-versed in this scene; however, what’s immediately apparent is just how well they’ve translated the aesthetic of these films. Without resorting to cheap, tired tricks like false grain or “missing” reels, they’ve effectively recreated every fiber of Eurohorror, right down to the tweed jackets and silly facial hair. None of these are the butt of jokes, mind you—it’s not like this stuff is exaggerated to the point of absurdity, mostly because that might not even be possible given how loopy actual Eurohorror is. Rather, it’s presented as-is and dropped into a film that could legitimately pass as having been produced during the 70s or 80s from the likes of Bava, Argento, and Fucli.
That trio of masters’ various styles is cribbed throughout, particularly in Astron-6’s command of a candy-colored widescreen frame that often teems with outlandish gore. Breaking it down onto an individual level reveals Bava’s disorienting zooms, Argento’s gel-tinged brand of lunacy, and Fulci’s willingness to fill the screen with the stuff of nightmares, be it creepy blind girls or skin-crawling spiders. The spirit of other films (such as Dressed to Kill) linger, but The Editor is clearly guided by this triumvirate of Italian horror maestros, whose works have been put into a blender at high-speed and reduced to a splattery puree.
Even the acting choices are pitch-perfect in the sense that everyone looks as though they belong, including co-directors Adam Brooks and Matthew Kennedy as the titular editor and the doofus inspector assigned to the murder case. Brooks especially acquits himself well in the role of a tortured genius who seems totally capable of committing murder (but probably isn’t because that would be too obvious, of course). Co-writer Conor Sweeney also stars as an actor who also seems to be a little too suspicious considering his role in the fictional film grows more prominent every time his co-stars end up in a body bag. He, too, is a dead ringer for the sort of vaguely effeminate, impossibly handsome blonde men who often appear in these films, and the sexual tension that develops between him and Kennedy riffs on the genre’s latest homoeroticism in an extended gag.
More familiar faces accent the Euro flavor, as The Editor bridges the past with its present with appearances from Udo Kier (the reigning godfather of weirdo Eurohorror character actors) and Lawrence R. Harvey (the bug-eyed creeper from The Human Centipede II). Meanwhile, de la Huerta continues to operate on another planet altogether: once again, her performance is way out there, which, of course, makes it perfect for the likes of The Editor, a film that dwells on the outer fringes of cult cinema. Astron-6 commits with outlandish performances, over-the-top gore, and a wild, meandering story. In other words, the secret formula here simply involves actually crafting a great Eurohorror movie. Sure, it’s probably easier to make a gag out of this entire genre with a broad farce, but that’s not what Astron-6 is up to.
Instead, they demonstrate a remarkable amount of restraint. Make no mistake: The Editor is a goof, but it’s one that aims to nudge the ribs rather than completely skewer. It’s a delicate takedown done with an obvious, infectious affection for its target. All of its jokes—from the randomly dubbed characters to the storytelling tangents—feel like authentic recreations of the warts-and-all aspect of these films. Astron-6 knows that genre adherents love these films despite these so-called “flaws” and reworks them into a clever, macabre homage that knows just how far to push a joke, even if it looks like it should let up (even the genre's reliance on outrageous misogyny is mined for humor). Towards the end, it especially just ascends into loony territory: just when it looks like it’s forgone an opportunity to tell its best joke, it blindsides you with an even better one. In keeping with the Eurohorror tradition, it’s always a step ahead of the audience, if only because it’s practically leading them blindfolded down a dark path.
The Editor is the rare homage that plays it cool: it’s not trying too hard to prove its street cred, nor does it lazily rely on the most obvious means of paying tribute. It is, quite frankly, a fine example of the form it’s sending up, which is no small feat. In choosing Eurohorror as their target, Astron-6 is able to easily blur the line between homage and spoof since many of these films are inherently off-kilter. However, they’re also gory, insane, entertaining, and even a little smart—one can even argue that The Editor leaves the door cracked to bullshit about the intersection of violence and art, a la A Cat in the Brain. As is often the case with this genre, such musings are secondary to flayed and immolated flesh, but The Editor is well aware of this. Ultimately, it inspires the same reaction as many of its predecessors: “what the fuck was that?”
After making the rounds as a festival favorite, The Editor arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Scream Factory. A feature length commentary with Astron-6, more than an hour of interviews and behind-the-scenes footage, and four deleted scenes serve as supplements.
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