“You want to know what happens when people with exploitation on their minds make an art film?” Brad Jones in the guise of Craig Golightly in the guise of Vincent Dawn asks the would-be director of his would-be epic, Neil.
“What?” Neil responds.
“You get the fucking Doom Generation,” Brad/Craig/Vincent explains, exasperated. “Do you want the fucking Doom Generation?”
The Cinema Snob Movie is in some ways the ultimate culmination of the trend unleashed by the success of Mystery Science Theater 3000 and the “discovery” of Ed Wood in the ’80s: a low-budget film glorifying b-movies that is itself a spin-off of an Internet show that riffs on low-budget b-movies. However, Brad Jones goes one step further, by poking at the barrier that separates “quality” cinema from “trash” cinema, and pointing out with glee that movies like Salo and A Serbian Film are practically exploitation films as sleazy as anything to pour out of the gutter of the ’70s Italian film industry, but through the magic of promotion or the power of the director’s name they nonetheless get labelled as “great” (albeit “daring”) cinema. In short, the only difference between your controversial, edgy art-house film and a Bruno Mattei or Herschell Gordon Lewis flick is a dash of pretension here and there and the choice of wrapping.
The whole joke behind The Cinema Snob – and it’s a joke so successful that it’s sometimes lost even on fans – is that it’s a show about a standard issue, Roger Ebert-esque critic mysteriously condemned to watch the grungiest of exploitation flicks, from ultraviolent slashers to quasi-professional porn parodies. The joke gets most blatant, so blatant you can feel the genuine outrage behind it, with the Maniac episode where the Snob reacts with horror and outrage that a movie about a serial killer be…violent. The movie spin-off takes things a bit further by giving fans an actual origin story for the Snob. An aspiring exploitation screenwriter, Craig Golightly, and his director friend Neil just want to make a blaxploitation movie titled Black Angus about a roller-skating black guy who “wants his vengeance.” They even get a wealthy producer to back it, but the vindictive president of a local film club, Dan Philips, intervenes to stop Craig and Neil from getting permission to film in public. In a last ditch effort, Craig Golightly infiltrates the film club as “Vincent Dawn,” a born-and-bred film snob. While he does charm Dan’s wife, Nancy, a fellow exploitation and horror buff, his timing proves spectacularly bad, as one by one the film club’s members are brutally murdered giallo style.
While the giallo plot runs through the movie and dominates the last act of the movie, much of the movie’s action – unsurprisingly given the budget limitations, which of course the film itself comments on – surrounds Craig’s deception and struggles with fitting into the club. My one complaint, though, is that the movie does in the first two acts dwell a little too long on the gag that the film club only enjoys movies to make convoluted interpretations. The humor does delve into what makes The Cinema Snob stand out from dozens of riffing Internet shows, by pointing out the hypocrisy of rejecting sensationalistic genre movies while embracing movies like Salo just because it has a veneer of intellectualism over the sex, violence, and the gross acts with bodily secretions, but more screentime goes to the easier gag of mocking off-the-wall interpretations of symbolism. That said, the humor still largely works, because it does the fine trick of tapping into the audience’s knowledge that they’re watching a very low-budget movie filmed by a group of friends and that fan base’s love of off-Hollywood movies, without becoming either Family Guy-esque pure referential humor or having an unending Tarantino-style didactic screed about pop culture. The movie is obviously written in praise of “trashy” cinema, but it doesn’t need to get the point across with long monologues; instead there’s only the subtle contrast between the elitist film club who lovelessly torture every movie for every possible interpretation and Nancy, who just loves Italian giallo films because they’re simply “fucking beautiful.”
Those who are already fans of Brad Jones and his fans obviously don’t need me to recommend this to them. There’s no riffing here in the style of Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie, but the humor and the references are very much in the style of the show, so unless you really only watch The Cinema Snob for seeing sarcastic summaries of z-grade slasher films then it should be an easy sell. Everyone else? Well, obviously anyone who can’t tell their Tinto Brass from their Jesús Franco is cautioned, but really I feel I can recommend this movie to just about anyone who has ever had a conversation lasting longer than an hour defending the merits of ’80s slasher movies against a Gender Studies major. Just be sure to check out the actual show.
The Cinema Snob Movie can be purchased here.