Could the incredibly fun, bat-shit-insanely sadistic B-movie Hobo With a Shotgun possibly stand a chance of breaking through to the mainstream? The outlook is pretty good. The film arrived at Sundance with a distribution deal with Magnet, the genre arm of Magnolia Pictures, and the premiere screening last night was packed with that surprisingly large subset of the population who were sold on the movie from the title alone (count us among them). Much of the anticipation was due to Hobo being the feature debut of Jason Eisener, who had made a big splash at the festival two years ago with his short film Treevenge, an unflinchingly gruesome look at what might happen if Christmas trees struck back at their murderers. He'd walked out of that screening to find broken glass and a pool of blood on the sidewalk. "The line was really long and a riot started when people couldn't get in!" he says with obvious pride.
The title, as expected, is pretty self-explanatory. Legendary Dutch actor Rutger Hauer — professional badass since Blade Runner — plays a homeless man who drifts into a ridiculously crime-ridden metropolis, alternately called Scum Town or Fuck Town, and starts going vigilante on its bad seeds. And when we say bad seeds, we mean BAD, as in de facto town overlord Drake (Brian Downey) and his two gleefully murderous sons Ivan and Slick (martial-arts champ Nick Bateman and Gregory Smith — yes, from Everwood), who, in the opening scene, decapitate their own kin using a manhole, barbed wire collar, and a truck. Mixed in is the requisite prostitute with a heart of gold (Molly Dunsworth), as well as general seventies-style-futuristic mayhem, and a practical how-to tutorial on unexpected tools for killing people. (Think bumper cars.)
The film, also as expected, was made gonzo-style with no money. Smith, who'd wanted to work with Eisener ever since seeing Treevenge, told the tale of having to do multiple takes of a scene where he uses a real flamethrower in a school bus. On the first take, he accidentally singed off the top of Bateman's hair; on the next ten, he just felt like he was baking himself alive. Hauer remembered kicking down a door in a makeshift hospital set and having the ceiling fall down behind him. And Eisener talked about a day when he'd set up Hauer's stunt double to get thrown from a roof into a pile of garbage, only to see Hauer grabbing a ladder and climbing up the roof himself. "I was like, 'Oh God, what's he gonna do? And he goes, 'Roll the cameras! Tell the behind-the-scenes guys that there's a 66-year-old man doing a stunt right now.' And he does a front flip off the ladder into the garbage bags." As we left the theater, we heard three takes on the movie: "That was awesome!" "I was like, 'Get me out of here!'" and "Well, 14-year-old boys will like it." Sure, we squirmed in our seats a lot — particularly during an especially gruesome scene involving the killing of multiple children — but most of the time we laughed so hard we cried.