Monday, 14 September 2015


The shorts showcases at this year's Film4 FrightFest were at a very high standard indeed. One area in which a lot of shorts have worked recently is deconstructing stock characters, turning them into more sympathetic and well-rounded characters.
First Torturous did this with the masked, grunting human butchers in a Hostel-like Torture-P0rn film, then Invaders turned the spotlight on the enigmatic and violent antagonists of Home Invasion flicks.
And now we have Bad Guy #2, a look at the role of a crime boss' senior henchman, the guy destined to be made an example of should the kingpin's orders to destroy a hero not be successfully executed.
So is this short film boss? Or is it more of a number two?
Read on…

BAD GUY #2 (2014)

Dir: Chris McInroy
Starring: Kirk C. Johnson, Will Elliot, David Maldonado, Sam Eidson, Chrissy Shackelford, Andrew Hoke

SPEEDY SYNOPSIS: I'll try not spoil too much here as this is a short, but continue at your own risk.

As several flunkies stand around looking nervous, the Kingpin (Maldonado) messily demonstrates what happens when a chief henchman fails in his duties. Under the cold and calculating gaze of the imposing Right Hand Man (Eidson) the remaining henchmen are sent on their way. But one of these 'heavies' (Johnson) finds himself slowly travelling up the ranks  as his insane boss' rage whittles down his superiors moving him inexorably closer to the cross-hairs.
What motivated him to take up the henchman job? Does his ambitious girlfriend Donna (Shackelford) really have his best interests at heart when she pushes for him to advance his career? And what will befall him when he reaches the poisoned chalice of a position that is Bad Guy #2?

WHY IT WORKS: Bad Guy #2 is absolutely hilarious. The dialogue is superb (especially that of the bonkers Kingpin regarding his very specific proclivity for a particular intimate act) and the characters are surprisingly well-rounded.
Chief among these is Johnson's Bad Guy #2. Likeable, amiable and gently dorky, he reminded me a lot of Zach Braff's Dr Dorian in Scrubs, a character you can't help but root for, even if you know that sheer terrible luck and clumsy moments of stupidity mean it's probably a lost cause. He's a guy who fell into a job (aren't so many of us?) and has become stuck in a rut, using this job to pay the bills while he tries to finish his long-delayed novel.
Nagged by his dominating girlfriend and terrified of his bullying boss, he's a loveable slacker that just happened to fall into a job where the manager asking you to stand on some tarp or pass him your handgun is never going to go well.
Desperate to impress and popular with his colleagues (if not his superiors) Bad Guy #2 is a character who could just have easily appeared in comedies such as Office Space, except instead of stationary invoices he's dealing with chainsaws, vats of acid and a rusty hacksaw.
As I've said before, humanising stock characters we've seen dozens of times is a witty way to examine the tropes of genres we love (in this case, the faceless villains in action movies) and have a little fun with them along the way. 
This story (written by director McInroy) does a fantastic job of making these characters seem human in a deeply flawed and fallible way that provides plenty of humour in scenes that would otherwise be pretty damn horrifying. Remember those earlier references to chainsaws and vats of acid? Yep, we get to see them used with some absolutely fantastic practical splatter effects. Trust me when I say that Doug Field's effects work is really excellent and provides some stomach-turning moments that would fit in perfectly in the middle of a serious horror flick. With all manner of grue, gore and splatter onscreen, it's a real testament to the work of the supremely talented cast that the audience is guffawing instead of gagging.
A meekly apologetic Johnson doused from head to toe in blood as he dismembers enemies and former co-workers alike is uproariously funny, and actually even helps us to feel a little more sympathetic towards our lead.  
As well as the superb Johnson, Maldonado also impresses, managing to be both terrifying and side-splittingly funny, often at the same time. He's clearly having a ball with the character, infusing him with a bristling, seething deranged fury that is all the funnier when it comes into contact  with the dim but well-meaning incompetents in his employ. Among these Elliot and Hoke are probably the standouts among a supporting cast of very talented individuals.
At 10 minutes long McInroy's short has plenty of time to string together some memorable set pieces and tell a pretty compelling (and very, very funny) story without wearing out the joke. That the film looks so great as it does so — with some assured and visually arresting cinematography by E.J. Enriquez — is just a delightful bonus.
Surprisingly, the biggest strength of this short film about vile villains is how much fun it is. With plenty of goofy humour and characters that are likeable and entertaining — even though the story is a very clever indeed, it's the heart, not the brains, that really elevates it into must-see territory.

SO WHERE'S IT AT: Bad Guy #2 is still touring the festival circuit, but I've been informed that the film will be made available to watch online this December. In the meantime the very talented McInroy is gearing up to shoot his next film, Death Metal, a splatter comedy about a metalhead and his mystical guitar. COUNT. ME. IN.
In the meantime, to find out more about Bad Guy #2 head over to its official Facebook page. Give it a like while you're there too!
To find out more about Death Metal, check out the film's Facebook page right here.

10 WORD WRAP UP: Plenty of gore and laughs galore in this witty short

Read my previous Film4 Frightfest special reviews for Suspension hereThe Nightmare hereWind Walkers hereStung hereNight of the Slasher hereInvaders hereCrow Hand!!! hereWe Are Still Here hereDemonic here and The Lazarus Effect here.

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Until next time, I hope you enjoyed your stay.

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