Dead Hooker in a Trunk (2010)

The film opens explosively with a scene of domestic violence erupting in a darkened kitchen. The camera cuts between shots of a man and woman fighting, and of two young girls playing in a bedroom nearby. The fight escalates, a shot is fired, and the woman drops to the floor. The gun is kicked aside, to be picked up by one of the two girls, who are now watching from the hallway. The girl aims steadily at the male aggressor, fires once, and the man is killed instantly.

This flashback scene for Jen and Sylvia Soska’s directorial debut, Dead Hooker in a Trunk, not only establishes a back story for its main protagonists, but could also be read as a statement of intent from the film’s creators. That statement is bold and fearless, commanding attention and declaring war on such filmic stereotypes as the victimised female and the misogynistic male villain, whilst, in a similar vein to Uma Thurman’s ‘Bride’ from Kill Bill, the Soskas offer alternative templates for women in genre films. Played by the sisters themselves, ‘Geek’ and ‘Badass’ are effectively two sides of the same coin, as both characters represent opposing responses to their childhood trauma, delineated in broad, comic-book strokes.

Once into its narrative stride, Dead Hooker… takes the audience hurtling through an insanely outlandish plot, bristling with attitude and pop culture references. Citing his indie film-making manifesto Rebel without a Crew as an inspiration [1], the Soskas go for the boisterous, genre mash-up style of Robert Rodriguez’ El Mariachi or his Grindhouse collaboration with Tarantino. To underline the point, Carlos Gallardo – El Mariachi himself – drops by, in a cameo role as ‘God’(!) Elsewhere, the anarchic, splat-stick violence recalls early Sam Raimi or Peter Jackson, yet despite scavenging from such reputable source materials, the film never quite cuts loose from its influences. Instead, Dead Hooker… careers through a sequence of lunatic, post-modern vignettes before winding up battered and bruised, partially mutilated and minus a hooker.

By embracing a gritty, low-fi aesthetic, the Soskas make a virtue of their obvious budget constraints. Christopher O’Neill points to the film-makers’ youthful exuberance holding the film together [2], and the rough edges are part of its ‘punk appeal’, as Anton Bitel admits [3]. However, whilst the tongue-in-cheek performances and the restless camera work add to Dead Hooker’s overall energy, they do little to disguise an awkward and unevenly paced narrative, and the self-consciously out-to-shock moments sometimes comes across like they’re trying a little too hard. That said, Dead Hooker in a Trunk is still a riotously fun exploitation flick with a wicked sense of humour, which provides a welcome antidote to the more depressingly grim fare of other recent independents. Sit down, Human Centipede… Carefully…

Dead Hooker in a Trunk is available on Blu-Ray Regions A & B and DVD Regions 1 & 2 .


courtesy of youtube.com

[1] Directors’ Commentary (2011), Dead Hooker in a Trunk (2009). Directed by Jen Soska & Sylvia Soska. Written by Jen Soska & Sylvia Soska [DVD]. Eureka Entertainment.

[2] Christopher O’Neill for Canuxploitation.com http://www.canuxploitation.com/review/deadhooker.html  accessed 25-02-2015

[3] Anton Bitel at littlewhitelies.co.uk http://www.littlewhitelies.co.uk/features/articles/dead-hooker-in-a-trunk-15182 accessed 25-02-2015

© RMRenfield and Blackwood Article, 2015.

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