Livestock

You wanna see my tattoo?

There are times when I’m typing up a review or an article or a letter to my landlord which explains why it was imperative for me to spend all my rent money on a certain green cold remedy, of which I must have at least three or four bottles a day, in order to make the giant frog that lives in my garage stop following me . . . Wait, let me start again.  There are times when I’m writing and I get up to go to the kitchen for a cup of coffee only to find myself in my car about halfway to town.  I’m not sure how I ended up in the car.  I don’t want to go to town.  I want coffee. Screw it.  I’m halfway there. I might as well go to Starbuck’s. Yeah, I’ll just get a coffee there.

So, I get to town and head for Starbuck’s, but you know, coffee suddenly doesn’t sound good.  Instead, I stop the by Walmart and get a bucket of fried chicken and head home. I like cold fried chicken, so I put it in the fridge and head back to my office.  I get about halfway up the hall and decide to head back into the kitchen and make a pot of coffee.  It turns out that I wanted coffee after all.   I fix a cup and on the way to the office, I trip and spill the coffee.  Screw it!  I clean up my coffee mess and get a Diet Coke.

This is, more or less, also the plot of the movie Livestock, a movie that meanders slowly around, playing for time and seems to forget what it’s supposed to be about.   It’s as if the filmmakers wandered into a horror movie buffet and grabbed a bit of To the Devil a Daughter, a dab of  The Howling, a couple of slices of  The Omen and a glob of George Romero’s Martin.  It works about as well as going to a real buffet and getting green beans, beef gravy, a fish fillet, lime jelly, apple pie and a glass of milk – all mashed in a bucket.

For the first fifteen minutes or so we follow Victor (Fiore Leo), Edgar (Robert Hines) and Dimitri (Slava Dorogapulko).  Victor and Dimitri are like stock characters from a TV crime drama.  When we meet them, they are sitting in a parked Mercedes, Victor in the back seat and Dimitri in the front.  We can tell Victor is nervous because is hideously overacting.  Dimitri watches him in the rear view mirror, clearly amused by the local “improv night” quality of the acting on display.

I’m thinking that this car is too small.  Even though the Mercedes is a fine choice, it’s not large enough to project power and authority the way a limousine or even a Black Escalade would.  It’s as sinister as my wife’s Nissan Maxima.

Eventually, Edgar shows up and gets in the backseat of the car with Victor.  Edgar is awesomely creepy.  He gives Victor a good long leer.  I imagine that he has a sound proof room in his basement that has violent homoerotic art murals on the walls, shackles and a tilted floor with a blood channel, like the one Dick Cheney had built in his castle. Edgar has good news; Victor is a “made man.”  Okay, it’s not quite that but close enough.  We gather from the conversation that Edgar, Victor and Dimitri are members of a secret organization which is up to no good and that Victor just got a promotion.   They celebrate by killing a guy, who kind of looks like a half-sized Ricardo Montalban, in an auto repair shop.  Nice.

We then meet Anthony, also a member of the group, who is regarded as inept by rest of “The Pack.”  He picks up a hooker,  taking her back to his place, cuts the tendons of one of her legs and leaves her bleeding the bathroom while he gets on the phone.  With Anthony distracted, the hooker tries to hobble out of the building.  She is caught by Victor who drags her back into the bathroom before chastising Anthony.  This serves as more or less a prelude to rest of the movie and introduces us to two of the main characters.

The movie picks up again a year later.  We are introduced to two more characters,     Annabel and Tina, both of whom were, until recently, in a rut.  Things are looking up  for the both of them now. Annabelle meets a nice guy and Tina gets an interview for a great new job.

Meanwhile, Victor and Edgar are planning a feast, which is some sort of big deal for “The Pack,” which so far seems to consist of Edgar, Victor, Anthony, Dimitri and two skanky girls.  Anthony is given the task of procuring the food.  In the course of events we find out that “The Pack” is a power hungry conspiracy of either vampires or cannibals that like playing vampire.  That’s never made totally clear.  I’m okay with the ambiguity of the nature of “The Pack.”  I don’t always need to have all the dots connected.  Now my interest is finally piqued.

You can guess what happens next? And if you can’t then I’m not going to tell you.  You’ll just have to watch the movie.

The problem with Livestock is that the script is horrible.  The story is confused and full of meaninglessness.  For example, the killing at the beginning of the movie made no sense.  The guy they offed was planning to run for a Senate seat in Massachusetts.  Anyone with a snowball’s change in Hell of winning an election of that magnitude is not the sort of person that is going to go missing without people asking questions.   So why did they do him in?  The excuse we’re given is that he “knows too much” and could be dangerous – and that is the end of that.  Twenty minutes into the movie and we have nothing to show for it because this killing has no bearing on the rest of the story.

The dialogue is painful.  Listening to the characters speak is like reading user comments on Yahoo.  It’s tedious and stupid and makes me want gouge out my own eyes Oedipus-style.  It must have been hell for the actors to have to try to do anything with their lines. I salute them.

Now for the good stuff, with a lot of low budget films, you get poor lighting, bad sound and no flow in many scenes.  Livestock, aside from a few weak scene transitions and padding is pretty solid. Visually, it’s unspectacular, but competently shot.  The audio has a bit of hiss from the background but it’s tolerable.  The acting, aside from the horrendous dialogue, is competent but not especially memorable with the exception of Robert Hines.  He was truly creepy.   If I was ever going to make a movie about a murderous pedophile priest or Ed Gein-ish character, I’d totally get this guy to star.

Two other standout aspects of Livestock are the film’s make-up effects and music.  The effects were fun.  I always enjoy practical effects.  The scene where Anthony and Victor are gutting dinner in the tub was a hoot.  Livestock also has a good original soundtrack a nice touch for a low budget film. The music effective, helping to build the scenes without pointing to itself.

The underlying idea two young women meeting an ancient cult of vampire/cannibals who trace their history back to egress of the Romani from India at the beginning of our era certainly has merit.  Sadly, Livestock is torpedoed by its script.   This would have worked a lot better if it was edited down to a 30 minute short film.

In a nutshell: Robert Hines is super creepy and fun to watch. There are good practical effects and  good original music. The film is competently shot.  In the end the film is dragged under by a horrible, padded script filled with tedious dialogue and drawn-out scenes.

You can pick a copy for yourself here.

Starring:
Fiore Leo
Robert Hines
Johanna Gorton
Michael Reardon
Christina C. Crawford

Director:
Christopher Di Nunzio

Screenplay:
Melanie Kotoch
Christopher Di Nunzio

 

One of five Vincents

 

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