Eye For Film >> Movies >> Dear God No! (2011) Film Review
According to director James Bickert (writer/director of Assimilate, Better Off Bound and Mondo Bondo), Dear God No! was borne out of a night spent sitting in his backyard drive-in for a typical session of beer, barbecue and B-movies that, on this particular day, led him back to the the regional drive-in films from the Seventies that had been close to his heart.
Bickert started feeling nostalgic for the cheap thrills that the genre once delivered with films such as The Northville Cemetery Massacre and Night Of The Demon. Gathering his filmmaker friends, he set out to put things right by making his own homage to the lost regional drive- in movie, circa 1976. Bickert and crew worked in the rough-and-tumble style of Roger Corman in northern Georgia throughout 2010, and shot using Fuji film in a Super 16mm format to achieve a heavily saturated image with some grain, aping drive-in classics such as I Drink Your Blood.
What exactly is a lost regional drive movie? According to Bickert it is not films like Tarantino's more recent exploitation homage Grindhouse as for one thing, real exploitation films, in his view, never had prints as damaged as the faux “grindhouse” style, and contained elements missing from the new crop of homages. What Bickert wanted were cheap thrills, minimal backstory and a fast pace, elements of his favourite biker films fused with other film genres, and to bring in an underlying social, environmental and political theme which he saw as a common aspect of earlier drive-in productions. There also had to be breasts, and lots of them, as Bickert observes: “Nothing drove red-blooded Americans to a drive-in film like the promise of seeing naked breasts! We packed in as many as the script would allow.”
The 1970s-set story starts by following a group of bikers known as “The Impalers” as they cause general mayhem around the southern United States. Rape, murder, the driving of big bikes while sporting criminally bad hair are what they are all about. Soon the thrill-killer gang are getting deep into a kill 'em all bar shootout (following what has to be one of the most disgusting drink mixer requests ever seen on screen), some robbery and cop- killing, and a hunt for two witnesses to one of their many earlier murders. They end up at a remote cabin in the Georgian mountains, where they inflict their depraved selves on the weird Doctor Marco and his funereal daughter Edna who live there. Then, things get even crazier and bloodier, as a lethal monster menaces them from the forest outside and the doctor's dark experiments are revealed.
So, Does Dear God No! deliver on Bickert's promise of bikers, babes, blood and breasts? It seems Bickert is not the type of man to betray his manifesto, as all those boxes can be checked off by the viewer by about the fifth minute. Pretty much the first thing we see is one of the bikers grinding his hog's spinning rear wheel into the corpse of a dead nun, the blood drenching the spokes. As the bikers drive past a mother and child on the highway, we see the mother abruptly savaged by a mysterious beast, the camera getting up nice and close to give us a good view of her internal organs being slopped about, before cutting to a spreading urine stain on her boy's dungarees. Cut to a strip bar, where things get seedier, sicker, slimier. Well, to be fair, Bickert did warn you.
This is seedy southern exploitation fare par excellence, so only those who enjoy their cross-genre thrills good and cheap, the acting naturalistic in a non-existent way, and who have sent their political correctness on permanent vacation should apply. There's fun to be had if you only have the stomach for it, and you can always, if this type of film is your thing, play spot the genre/sub-genre reference. There are a lot of them crammed in here, from nuns to Nazis.
Distortions in the image quality - blotches, warped colours and lines - are present and correct along with a degraded audio track to ape the lo-fi quality of the 1970s drive in films, and a no-CGI effects policy. The rich, hyper-saturated colour pallette gives the film a distinctive tinge. The specially-written psychedelic rock soundtrack from the Forty Fives is quite snappy in its own way.
At a time when the zero budget exploitation aesthetic is making something of a mainstream comeback - see the recent Rutger Hauer vehicle Hobo With A Shotgun, for example - Dear God No! doesn't reinvent the wheel. The fact that, to a degree, Bickert used traditional craftsmanship to recreate the look and sounds of a 1970s sub-B movie does add a certain cachet to the gore-drenched experience, though.Reviewed on: 23 Jan 2013