Friday, July 3, 2015

After School Specials (2003)

After School Specials (2003) are composed of three stories: Wiggly, Ants, and The Laundry Room.  The film is helmed by one of the most interesting underground filmmakers working today, Giuseppe Andrews.
Wiggly is the fifteen-minute opening segment (reputed to have been cut down from a feature length of eighty minutes) about the titular character, played by Andrews, who is caught in the middle of a family crisis: his agitated father (Vietnam Ron) wants his camper back from Wiggly’s mother.  The new boyfriend of Wiggly’s mom, Mark (Bill Nowlin), wants Wiggly to kill his father, so the camper can become his new home with his mom and Mark.  Wiggly is also having trouble with his girlfriend (Tiffany Naylor): she’s not really into his foot fetish, despite his declaration of true love for her.
Wiggly is one of Andrews’s funniest films and also one of his most accessible.  The film plays out like the typical dysfunctional drama with the exception that the proceedings are played out in an only slightly exaggerated fashion.  In other words, Wiggly is closer to home than most would think.  The portrayal of Wiggly’s father by Vietnam Ron is so relatable:  he is so angry that he cannot get back into his camper that almost every phrase coming out of his mouth is “fuck this, fuck that, or fuck you.”  He cannot even sell the worthless crap at his garage sale, because he is too angry (to compound matters, his garage sale appears to be a Sisyphus-like exercise, leading to more headache).  In Wiggly’s only scene with his mother, the two go from having a polite conversation to his mother becoming violently overcome with new feelings and emerging with a demonic voice that threatens to kill Wiggly.  Bill Tyree gives my favorite performance as a senior citizen who attempts to seduce a volunteer Wiggly while playing a game of tic-tac-toe. 
The standout piece is Ants.  Andrews plays Ped (“It’s short for pedestrian”) the happy-go-lucky, rollerblading son of his documentarian father, again played by Vietnam Ron.  Ped’s father has been making a documentary on ants for the last twenty years and is in the final stages of completing his film.  He also appears to heading towards a mental breakdown as well.  As his father finishes his documentary, Ped encounters multiple people:  all the encounters are often enlightening and hilarious and are most often not random.
Ants is about outsiders, artists, and outsider artists.  The entire film is populated with outsiders and loners.  Ped’s grandfather is homeless (homeless people being the ultimate societal outsiders), and he and Ped have an amusing conversation about his grandfather “not securing his future.”  I thought money grew on trees, quips his grandfather, until he looked closer and noticed that they were leaves.  In the film’s best scene, Andrews films himself rollerblading alone in a parking lot while the audio plays over an original song by Andrews about rollerblading: it’s a pure film moment and shows Andrews’s adeptness at filmmaking.  The main focus of Ants, however, is Ped’s father and his obsession with his documentary about ants.  At one point in the film, Ped attempts to dissuade his father from completing the film: he’s worked on it too long and in the end, Ped argues, no one is going to care about watching a film about ants.  His father is not deterred: the satisfaction and the joy filming brings him are completely worth all of the trouble, the years spent filming it and the toll it took upon his psyche. 
The final piece is The Laundry Room and it is a light, humorous piece (incidentally, the closest to a horror film that I have seen from Andrews).  The center of the film is a long, dirty poem recited by Bill Tyree, playing a psychiatrist giving aid to a heartbroken MaryBeth that goes on for at least five minutes.  It’s the penultimate dirty limerick, and the rest of The Laundry Room is built around this scene.  The film stars Vietnam Ron, again, as a killer stalking a laundry room and looking for victims to take their shoes.  

After School Specials is one of my favorite films from Giuseppe Andrews.  I must have seen it at least twenty times and will inevitably see it more.  It is available as an extra on the Troma DVD of Touch Me in The Morning or directly from Andrews here.

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