2 stars

"10 days in the life of a serial killer"

directed by: Nick Palumbo
starring: Mack Hail, Renee Sloan, Davia Ardell, Alan David Margolies, Megan Westendorf

(back of video blurb):

       "NUTBAG is the horrifying, true-life story of a man who murders without provocation. The lonely, depraved killer stalks the neon city we call Las Vegas. Killing young women at random, there seems to be no end to his madness. Enter the mind of a psychopath. Feel his pain. Follow him on his daily routine, and watch the blood flow like wine.

          NUTBAG is a claustrophobic, ghastly thrill-ride that pulls no punches in its depiction of violence. Set to a haunting musical score, director Nick Palumbo spins a frighteningly contemporary story of a modern day Jack the Ripper.

        NUTBAG is an instant classic. One of the most visceral movies ever made. A film you will never forget."

choice dialogue:

"If I could kill everyone- I wouldn't have these problems."

-the killer ways up the odds.

slash with panache?

       Sometimes when watching horror flicks I come across one that makes me sit up and, well for want of a better word, gag. And, ladies and gentlemen, NUTBAG is one such movie. Oh yes siree!

       This shot-on-video movie from Frightflix productions isn't a bad film, in-fact, far from it, but I'd be lying if I said I enjoyed it; I'd be lying also if I said I wasn't tempted a couple of times to switch the damn thing off.

       Made with evident skill by writer/director Nick Palumbo, the movie relays the blood-soaked events in two days of the life of a Jack-the-Ripper obsessed serial killer in Las Vegas. The eponymous 'nutbag' (played with gusto by Mick Hail) stalks the trashy neon streets for victims, (who are invariably generously busted, leggy blonde model types- natch), whilst indulging in self-obsessed psycho-babble as he lists his hates (everything, really!); wallowing in his descent into solitude and insanity: "Death is lonely- he needs people all the time … Death is my friend- my only friend".

       There is little in the way of traditional narrative devices in NUTBAG, Palumbo eschews such clichéd thriller tactics as including a hackneyed police hunt and, although it looks like it might happen at one point, focusing on the sustained perils of any final girl. Really, the film's running time is made up of a cavalcade of atrocities only broken up by the killer's self psychoanalysis and demented rantings in his dingy apartment, where he confides in his one true friend (well, apart from death that is), his pet tarantula, Henrik.

       Palumbo admits that "[NUTBAG] is not for everyone. It is for the true horror connoisseur. The horror fan who misses the days of great slasher movies". It is important to point out here that I don't think Palumbo is really talking about the relatively cuddly (when compared to this anyhow!) slasher flicks of the early 80's, despite the fact that the killer's flat is decked out, along with pornography and Edvard Munch reproductions, with posters from such classics as MOTHER'S DAY and THE BURNING (contentious in itself as they could be seen as some kind of implication that horror films really do make you nutty). No, NUTBAG nods more in the direction of John McNaughton's HENRY: PORTRAIT OF A SERIAL KILLER (especially) and films like MANIAC and LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT.

       Palumbo, not content with dispensing with the traditional narrative structure of the slasher movie, also dispenses with the relative coyness and innuendo of other genre films and, quite literally, cuts to the heart of the matter. NUTBAG is exploitation at its purest, cruelest and, often near unwatchable. Although there is no hard-core pornography in the film there's plenty of female nudity and nearly all the victims are systematically abused at length and then murdered in graphic ways. Add to this violent sexism the killer's racism and homophobia the incendiary mixture is sure to offend most (it did me), and, put it this way, there isn't a snowball's hope in hell that this movie would ever see the light of a legitimate release in the UK.

       It seems that the film elicited the desired response from me- in an e-mail to me Palumbo wrote: "I am also glad the movie was able to disturb you. As for the Nutbag himself, I have to admit I was trying to elicit different emotions and attitudes from the killer at different times. This was in allot of ways an experimental movie. I had to do and try different things because of budget constraints. Overall, I am happy with the final outcome. I wanted to create something that people wouldn't soon forget. I think at the least I managed that." …I'm certain not to forget it in a hurry. It is the film's lack of a moral core that, perhaps, disturbs the most. This, I'm sure, is intentional, as Palumbo pointed out. In most horror films there is some closure- evil gets theirs. In that respect both MANIAC and LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT are ultimately deeply moralistic, whereas a film like NUTBAG (and also HENRY) is not- there is no triumph of good over evil, here. In fact, throughout the film, despite the killer's odious nature, it often feels that our sympathies are being steered towards him and prejudices, and away from blonde ciphers that meet the self-righteous blade. Mick Hail, despite playing a veritable Billy-no-mates with admirable nuttiness (bizarrely best shown in the film's strangest scene where a lawn becomes the latest, if somewhat unlikely, victim), has an air of rock star coolness about him, which seems at odds with his rampant dysfunction. Like I said, this is film making at its most incendiary.

       NUTBAG is not a safe horror movie by any stretch of the imagination. There's plenty of nudity and violence, but precious little in the way of conventional thrills. It's an endurance test of the senses. Palumbo has succeeded in making a film that pushes the envelope; one which is certainly not for everyone, but even if it's not for you then at least we horror fans can sleep safe in our beds knowing that someone somewhere is still kicking against the boundaries.

       After this, a film almost guaranteed to offend, somewhat worryingly, Palumbo promises that "… my next project is going to push the envelope even further".

BODYCOUNT 11      female:9 / male:2

       1) Female has throat slit with cleaver
       2) Female killed (method unseen)
       3) Female seen dead covered in blood
       4) Female drowned in bath tub
       5) Male killed (method unseen)
       6) Female stabbed to death
       7) Female stabbed to death
       8) Female stabbed to death
       9) Female stabbed in stomach
     10) Male half-decapitated with machete
     11) Female stabbed in crotch