The Backyard

The Backyard


Reviewed by: George Williamson

Before today, when I heard the words, "American wrestling", the first thing that sprung to mind were pea-brained beefcakes in skin-tight spandex pretending to smack each other about. After watching The Backyard, I've had to change my definition to include 15-year-olds hurling each other onto flaming boards, covered in barbed wire, light bulbs and drawing pins.

This documentary centres on the backyard wrestling matches that evolved during the mid-Nineties. Groups of friends spent their weekends, beating each other over the head with fluorescent tubes and setting fire to each other in small homemade wrestling rings.

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Other fun options for extreme violence included cacti, picture frames, cheese graters, bins, chairs, roadwork signs, machetes, staplers, and razor blades. Oh, and mousetraps. Lots of mousetraps.

There are buckets of blood, but, like the mainstream variety, Backyard is as staged as the action you see on television. Knowing this, however, doesn't detract from a queasy feeling and sense of exploitation.

Director Paul Hough takes us on a tour of parts of the US and UK, filming the bouts, following the lives of participants and their families. It highlights the social differences between players, from the middle-class parent-and-teacher supported upstate New York jocks, whose matches are halted at the first sign of injury, to the Texan high school dropouts, who leave the ring dripping blood.

There is also the heart-warming story of hopeful twenty-something Mike "The Lizard" Cook, chasing his dream of professional wrestling in Las Vegas, and brothers Justin and Bo Gates, who use it to exorcise memories of childhood abuse.

The camerawork is rough, but tight editing carries the mood well, keeping you gripped with a mixture of morbid fascination, slapstick humour and human interest that makes this an interesting, entertaining ride.

Reviewed on: 10 Aug 2002
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A shockingly graphic documentary about the backyard wrestling phenomenon.
Amazon link

Director: Paul Hough

Starring: "The Lizard", "Chaos", "Scar", "Heartless", "The Retarded Butcher"

Year: 2002

Runtime: 80 minutes

Country: USA


EIFF 2002

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