Color, 2009, 71 mins. 3 secs.
Directed by Vernon Chatman
AGFA + Drag City (Blu-ray) (US R0 HD), Drag City (DVD) (US R0 NTSC)
Back in the mid-'00s, adventurous cable viewers were smacked across the head by an outrageous show that still hasn't been matched in the mainstream market: Wonder Showzen, a satirical and often extremely experimental two-season program done in the template of a puppet-filled kids' show that often fractures into another state of consciousness entirely. One of its creators, Vernon Chatman, has kept that spirit alive in his other projects since then like the indescribable 2009 anthology film Final Flesh, which is truly unique in the pantheon of SOV productions. Using a website called Porn for the People (essentially a hardcore version of W.A.V.E. Productions where customers can custom order any oddball video they want), he commissioned four segments revolving around the idea of households dealing with escalating radioactive insanity. Each one involves a couple and their daughter awakening from a dream and spouting non sequitur dialogue, often with hilarious and sometimes disturbing results along with recurring imagery involving food, nudity, and bathrooms. There's no way you'll ever forget it.
"The Atom Bomb is about to drop," notes the opening text crawl, and from there we meet our first family coping with weird dreams. Then mom goes off to bathe in "Tears of Neglected Children," "Angel Blood," "Tears of Corrupt Politicians," daughter goes to "powder my nose and take a dump" in the "Psycho Sexual Burn Ward" while she reads the Koran, both women give birth to eggs and raw steaks, everyone fights over a can of chili, and dad gets dressed up as a baby. That's just for starters though as our next trio awakens in the afterlife (complete with brain spaghetti in a toilet, a fetish for dumping a jar of marinara sauce inside underwear, and messages from God), followed by two more segments with messages in spilled coins, a lesbian duel with smushed bananas and cherries, dialogue like "My beauty is a weapon, so that's why I must commit optical suicide"... and so it goes.
Though it features the usual adult film disclaimer at the beginning and features a few shots of explicit nudity, there's no interactive "sex" in this per se unless you count pencil erasers and food condiments. What you get instead is an often hilarious barrage of dialogue exchanges that abruptly end when an actor panics about something like an angel infestation, and the cumulative effect is both disorienting, amusing, and kind of unsettling by the time you get to the moodier final bit. It's definitely not something for everybody, but as a cinematic stunt you have to admire the insanity of putting something like this together (especially the actors who somehow keep a straight face throughout).
Initially released on 2009 and sold directly by Drag City, Final Flesh is bound to reach a much larger audience with its 2002 Blu-ray edition from AGFA and Drag City (in a limited 2,000-unit slipcover edition). Obviously this is limited by the conditions of the original production, which was shot digitally and plays out at 1.33:1 before switching midway to windowboxed 1.78:1. (Keep the zoom button handy if you can for easier viewing.) The DTS-HD MA English 2.0 stereo track (with optional English SDH subtitles) sounds great with the sparse but effective electronic score getting a lot of multichannel activity throughout along with the occasional off-screen voice moving around. There's also an option to play it with a new alternate score by Ben Chasny of Six Organs of Admittance and Comets on Fire, which plays a lot more throughout, has more tonal variety, and gives the whole thing more of a David Lynchian quality. Also included are an appropriately baffling video intro by On Cinema’s Gregg Turkington (2m35s), a "Lay and Love” music video by Bonnie “Prince” Billy directed by Vernon Chatman and John Lee (set in a very unusual moving van), a PFFR film festival commercial, the original trailer, and a funny reel of outtakes (8m43s) from the second segment showing how the actors really felt about that underwear sauce scene.
Reviewed on July 9, 2022