This director is mining again
In cinema, “exploitation” is loosely defined as a subcategory of lo-fi B films that explores dreary themes in a difficult genre setting. Mining had its heyday in the 1970s and 1980s with groundbreaking but hugely controversial hits like Cannibal tribe, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and I spit on your grave.
There are many sub-generations in the field of exploitation: murderers, women in prison, spaghetti westerners. Blaxploitation movies like Coffy and Axis empowering Black audiences with bad vigils played by Pam Grier and Richard Roundtree. Interesting movies like Vanishing Point and Death Race 2000 Create thrills by crashing muscle cars into each other.
In today’s franchise-focused industry, mining has slowly faded from the movie scene. Sometimes, directors offer praise for a long-forgotten genre of exploitation. Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez’s 2007 double film Grindhouse is a return of mining. 2013 Sonno Profondo is an affectionate homage to Italian giallo films. But, as a prominent underground cult phenomenon, mining is pretty much dead.
But as long as S. Craig Zahler keep making movies, it doesn’t disappear completely. With powerful, extremely violent gems like Bone Tomahawk, Quarrel in Box 99, and Drag through concrete, Zahler has brought gritty sensibilities, violence, pushing boundaries exploited in the modern era.
After years of working as a novelist and musician, Zahler moved into filmmaking and made his directorial debut with the 2015 film. Bone Tomahawk. Kurt Russell and Patrick Wilson lead a group of cowboys into the wilderness, where they are kidnapped, tortured, and eaten by cannibals. Zahler followed that up with 2017 Quarrel in Box 99, in which Vince Vaughn’s ex reluctantly returns to crime when his girlfriend becomes pregnant. He is arrested and sent to prison, and as if missing the birth and early years of his child weren’t bad enough, his girlfriend is taken hostage and he is forced to Move himself to a filthy underground prison complex so he can kill a god-protected criminal to earn her freedom. He followed that up with 2018 Drag through concrete, where Vaughn co-starring with Mel Gibson as a pair of policemen who are suspended without pay for police brutality and plan to tear apart the perpetrator of a bank robbery to end the encounter.
In all three of these films, Zahler defined his directing style as a refreshing exploit. He uses state-of-the-art filmmaking techniques and special effects abilities to make scenes of violence even more gruesome and hauntingly more realistic than exploitative classics like Mandingo and Lady Snowblood. Like the exploitative directors of previous years, Zahler used blunt, uncompromising action filmmaking to tackle contemporary issues like police brutality and the effectiveness of rehabilitation. power. Zahler’s signature voice unleashed talents like never before in established stars like Vince Vaughn and Don Johnson.
The greatest asset in Zahler’s films – and indeed any exploitative film – is his use of innovative storytelling techniques to get the most out of difficult genre material. Bone Tomahawk start as a standard western About a sheriff and his team go to the lawless frontier to rescue the town’s doctor. But it quickly turns into a bloody festival when they are kidnapped and dragged back to the cave by a tribe of bloodthirsty cannibals. For audiences who come in without watching the trailer or reading the plot synopsis, this is a hugely unexpected left turn.
The fierce effective conspiracy of Quarrel in Box 99 fueled by brutal hand-to-hand combat. The messy fight scenes are viscerally and nicely choreographed and Zahler captures them most through take time. But they’re not just there to be eye-catching; Zahler offers a well-established plot plot and a compelling protagonist with a globally relevant goal (to save his girlfriend from an experimental abortion) and it’s perfect. entirely based on that main character beating and digging into the darkest, deadliest corners of the prison system.
With stories of anti-heroes with guns fighting for a bag of gold, Drag through concrete is a classical Western within the framework of Treasures of the Sierra Madre. It was a simple theft story told from many angles. There is a long sequence involving a new mother struggling to return to work and leaving her child at home with her husband after delaying this for weeks. At the insistence of her husband, she went back to work at a bank and that was the day the theft happened. The scenes that establish her home life may seem like a lengthy non-serial at first, but they end up making her death all the more heartbreaking.
The beauty of Zahler’s cinematic storytelling is in its simplicity. His scripts feature concise, clear conflicts, allowing him to focus fully on his characters and their motivations. His background and situation is virgin pulp. His style is like Elmore Leonard meets Stephen King. Even the action sequences in his non-horror films are so gruesome and intense that they are simply horror.
Zahler continues to push the envelope with his paintings depicting violence. In Bone Tomahawk, a guy ripped in half in the middle. In Quarrel in Box 99, a boy’s skull was scraped all over the ground. In Drag through concrete, a guy retrieves the key that another guy swallowed by cutting open his torso, following his intestines to his stomach and carefully opening his stomach in a pull-out sequence horrifying way.
In a recent interview with Word Balloon, Zahler has announced three new movies he’s working on. First is Hug Chickenpenny: Panegyric of an abnormal child, based on his own novel, is about a deformed orphan who is adopted as a pet by some sadistic scientists. The film was supposed to be shot in black and white, three hours long and The Jim Henson Company is involved because the main character will be a complex animated puppet.
Monday is Fury of the Strongman, a scenario he’s been shopping around. An intrepid, extremely violent neo-noir in the veins of Quarrel in Box 99 and Drag through concrete, Fury of the Strongman revolves around a traveling circus in the 1970s that ran nefarious locals in Louisiana.
The third is a mystery project, with Zahler divulging no details except that it’s a horror movie. It would be great to see the giallo subgenre’s concurrence mixing up the complex crime stories of Quarrel and Drag with bloody terror of Bone Tomahawk.
Based on these upcoming projects, Zahler has yet to complete its ongoing modernization exploits. In an increasingly safe cinematic environment, Zahler is making movies with violent content makes Tarantino look tame and the anti-heroes that make Travis Bickle look like a saint.
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