For a box office failure, Grindhouse certainly left its mark. Hobo with a Shotgun marks the second spin-off to Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino’s bold experiment in recreating 1970’s cult cinema, after Rodriguez and Ethan Maniquis’s fine Machete, and like its predecessors the movie wallows in low-budget squalor, and squirms about in a wet, messy pool of gore and nonsense. It’s a fun film with moments of fine drama, but it’s mostly a wacky one, more at home with the works of Lloyd Kaufman than those of Jack Hill. Humans are mostly squishy balloons of red liquid, not real characters, and director Jason Eisener likes it that way. You might like it too.
Rutger Hauer plays ‘Hobo,’ an old-fashioned man with simple dreams. He wants to own a second-hand lawnmower so he can actually work for a living. Hobo hops a train to a new town, where the bad guys are so bad that they put stick their own brothers’ heads in manhole covers, wrap barbed wire around their necks, and then tie the other end of the wire to a car and screech off at high speeds. Hobo with a Shotgun is the kind of movie where such decapitations not only happen but come accompanied with a showery geyser of Kool-Aid blood. It’s also the kind of movie where women see such an Old Faithful of human plasma and immediately run beneath it to lustily massage the blood into their cleavage. This happens in the first five minutes of the movie, and it’s a fine litmus test: You’ll either want to see the rest of what Hobo with a Shotgun has to offer, or you’ll have plenty of time to get your money back and see something else instead.
Hauer brings dignity to these willfully undignified proceedings, and takes his role more seriously than the rest of Eisener’s generally hammy supporting cast. Hobo is a deeply broken man, albeit a decent one, forced to take arms against a sea of monsters with his trusty shotgun at hand. His view of the world is a filthy one, and it is split unevenly between innocent schoolteachers in need of protection and vile demons whose testicles deserve to be displaced with the copious application of gunpowder.
The events of Hobo with a Shotgun could take place entirely within his own mind, or at least represent his own shattered worldview. The evildoers of this film do so much damned evil, flamethrowing buses full of schoolchildren and so forth, that it’s actually hard to accept the film as even the most stylized depiction of reality. Perhaps the only way the film really works, apart from a mere ultraviolent lark, is through the lens of Hobo’s diseased eyes. There’s an almost beautiful scene towards the chaotic climax in which Hauer clutches his shotgun close as he looks upon a room full of newborn babies, remembering with surprise that he was once like them, and pondering seriously if any of the younglings will be able to escape the fate that befell him. The babes gradually begin wailing, as if understanding the horror that awaits them in the real world. But then of course Hobo faces off against The Plague – a pair of armored mercenaries wielding harpoon nooses who possibly keep a Shoggoth in their basement – and all artistic aspirations quickly retreat once more behind a cloud of outlandish depravity.
But if outlandish depravity is what you’re looking for, Hobo with a Shotgun provides. And it’s good at its job. If you’ve ever intentionally seen more than one Troma film, Eisener’s grubby power fantasy represents the height, thus far, of that breed of gleefully grotesque cinema. It may not stand tall, but at least it stands proud. It's available now on Video on Demand.
Crave Online Rating: 7.5 out of 10