Directed by Drew Bolduc
Written by Drew Bolduc
Starring Shannon Hutchinson, Vito Trigo, Jasmina Parent, Johnathan Newport, Yael Haskal, Brian K. Landis, Irene Santiago, Mark Ashworth, Lilly Nelson, Jeffrey Alan Solomon, Conrad Cotterman, Jack Rouse, Jean Louise O’Sullivan, Dietrich Teschner, Bernadette Sayre, Nicholas Chase Applegate, Brian Hmelnicky, Alan Boell
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Absurdist filmmaker and true madman Drew Bolduc has unleashed another slice of insanity in his new sci-fi horror mashup ASSASSINAUT. Those looking for linear, logical thinking in their films should seek shelter, ASSASSINAUT is a gonzo film that celebrates the early days of low budget sci fi and peppers it with heaps of gore and goofiness.
A quartet of kids are picked to go on a mission in space to meet the President of Earth in an orbiting space station. Young Sarah (Shannon Hutchinson) has dreamed of venturing into the cosmos since as long as she can remember. But when an assassin blows up the space station, the kids, a few crew members, and the President herself are shuttled off to a nearby planet (which looks a lot like a suburban countryside) to fight alien monsters and those driven insane from the “alien” environment.
What makes ASSASSINAUT work is that the entire cast play everything straight as an arrow even though the situation they are in is absolutely ludicrous. It adopts the standard sci fi plot of a group of astronauts landing on a planet and must fight to survive, but the fact that these are kids make it all feel like something made with a camcorder in the backyard. But instead of rudimentary filmmaking, there is a truly talented person behind the camera in Drew Bolduc. At times, ASSASSINAUT feels like it would be at home occurring in the TWIN PEAKS universe with its quirky characters and dream-like logic. The monotone lines delivered also evoke the best of David Lynch. But there is an aesthetic here that also reminds me of Wes Anderson in the colorful suits and meticulous framing of each and every scene. Bolduc has always lensed some insane cinema, but here he holds back from the gonzo style filmmaking in order to tell a heartfelt story about Sarah’s earnest quest to be an astronaut from the first scene where we are introduced to the character as she plays as if she is in space fighting monsters in the backyard his her brother to her actual exploits in a very real and dire situation in space.
Having a cast of kids in the lead roles may mean G-rated scares and action in most films, but not ASSASSINAUT. These kids are in real peril. The deaths are all practical and ultra-gory. The effects are a throwback to the plastic monster costumes surrounding stunt actors from the cheesiest of 50’s and 60’s sci fi with whipping tentacles and limited articulation. But the one-eyed creatures in ASSASSINAUT are made unique by being smeared in blood and goop wreaking gory havoc with whipping tentacles. Bolduc also uses some impressive CG effects, such as a space station explosion reminiscent of the atom bomb montage at the end of DR. STRANGELOVE. Again, Bolduc seems like a true fan of cinema and incorporates some iconic filmmaking styles and techniques to make this youngster sci fi horror mashup wholly unique.
Still, I realize ASSASSINAUT is going to be a tough sell for the literal minded and those who don’t have a sadistic sense of humor. Bolduc is an acquired taste and while I feel the man is destined for greatness, there will be those who think his rudimentary approach is unappealing. For me, Bolduc has infused his filmmaking with some of the best parts of John Waters, David Lynch, and Wes Anderson—a truly fine pedigree exemplified perfectly in ASSASSINAUT, an astoundingly one of a kind film.