Violent Shit (1989) *
And people say there’s no truth in advertising anymore… Violent Shit was Andreas Schnaas’s first feature film, so perhaps we should chalk it up to beginner’s luck that it turned out somewhat better than his other big claim to fame, Zombie ‘90: Extreme Pestilence. While it is hardly a good movie— indeed, I found it just barely tolerable after the first half-hour or so— it is at least not quite so completely worthless as the later zombie film. For one thing, it benefits from a substantially shorter running time (albeit nowhere near short enough). For another, the near-total plotlessness of even mainstream slasher movies means that the standard by which Violent Shit will most naturally be judged is significantly laxer. Nevertheless, it takes an extremely forgiving attitude not to hit “eject” well before the hour mark, and only the most uncritical of gorehounds are likely to consider it worth a first viewing, let alone a second.
Karl Shitter (classy, Andy… real classy) is a troubled boy who doesn’t get along well with his mother. One day, he comes home late from playing in a marshy field, and Mom threatens to punish him. That’s when Karl chops her up with a meat cleaver.
20 years later, young Mr. Shitter has grown up to be a serial killer popularly known as Karl the Butcher (Schnaas himself, who can also be seen acting in Anthropophagous 2000 and Demon-Terror). A trio of men who we would never imagine to be police officers were it not for the word “Polizei” stenciled on the side of their Volkswagen Microbus are driving him through the countryside, presumably transferring him to another prison or mental hospital or whatever. In the absolute middle of fucking nowhere, the driver stops the van, for his bladder will never make it to wherever they’re going in one piece. This, inevitably, is Karl’s cue to go berserk, kill his other two escorts, and then ambush the third when he returns from his urinary interlude. For the next hour and change, Karl will wander the land clutching a patently phony cleaver (the ludicrous size of which seems hilariously to suggest that the cleaver from the prologue scene has grown up right along with its user), waylaying and dismembering anyone and everyone he comes across— hitchhikers, landscapers, college girls, middle-aged drunks— becoming steadily uglier and more deformed with each kill he makes. I’m not quite sure about the reason for that last part, although I gather it has something to do with a flashback we see in which Satan appears to Karl during his childhood and (I think— the sound quality in Violent Shit is such that I’d be hard pressed to follow most of the dialogue even if my German were much better than it is) anoints him as his special agent on Earth. Perhaps that run-in with the Devil also goes some way toward explaining why Karl eventually keels over spontaneously in a woodland clearing and hemorrhages to death, leaving behind only his giant cardboard cleaver and the big, grotesque baby-thing that claws its way free of his disintegrating torso.
I’ve mentioned on previous occasions a friend of mine who is in film school, studying to be a horror director. Over the years, I’ve had a chance to see a couple of the shorts she has turned in for her classes, and what Violent Shit reminds me of most is one of those embryonic, five-minute horror flicks, stretched out to an hour and a quarter. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that it looks like this movie was shot not from a script, but from a syllabus: Lesson 1— outdoor cinematography; Lesson 2— interiors; Lesson 3— rudimentary prosthetics and stage blood. There is an experimental quality to the proceedings which somehow makes Violent Shit seem rather less obnoxious than Schnaas’s later work, a sense that much of the point here is simply to get a handle on the mechanics of moviemaking. Not only is Schnaas not really telling a story in Violent Shit, he isn’t even pretending to, and the movie benefits to some extent from its forthright admission to being nothing more than a disorderly jumble of essentially unconnected murder scenes. Indeed, a couple of the vignettes are individually pretty decent, with surprisingly atmospheric stalkings bolstered by a very effective electronic score that hearkens back to the Italian gore films of the late 70’s and early 80’s. The trouble with this approach, though, is that you can get away with not having a real story in a five- or ten-minute short, but if you’re making a feature-length film, a premise alone just isn’t going to cut it. In Violent Shit, Schnaas tries to make a single scene’s worth of story serve the needs of the entire picture, and the movie doesn’t even reach the halfway point before it simply collapses under its own weight. After we’ve seen about three killings, Schnaas has already shown us everything he’s got as a writer and a director, and all that remains is for him to show off his seemingly endless inventiveness in devising gore effects. But because his miniscule budget basically precludes him from executing any of his ideas on that front at all convincingly, not even the trisection of a human body with a hedge trimmer, a remarkably tasteless genital mutilation, or the climatic head-scratcher in which Karl comes upon Jesus crucified in the forest, slits him open, and then literally climbs inside his torso (in search of the Sacred Heart of Christ, perhaps?) is enough to keep Violent Shit from becoming interminably boring.
Thanks (I think...) to Will Laughlin for hooking me up with a copy of this film.