When sitting down to watch the latest release from Artsploitation, titled Bloody Knuckles and adorned with a cover featuring a severed hand, I didn’t expect to find anything that could be deemed politically relevant. But the first feature from Canadian filmmaker Matt O is refreshing in its earnest attempt to say something all the while delivering a piece of inspired splatter cinema that just happens to use anything and everything as a target for its antics. Taking the severed hand horror formula from the likes of Idle Hands, The Hand, Dr Terror’s House of Horrors, and Evil Dead 2, Bloody Knuckles wears its inspirations with pride and, despite a clear agenda, never lets any sort of political ideology stand in the way of its many excesses. And it has a gay BDSM superhero named Homo Dynamus.
Bloody Knuckles starts out with an opening credits montage of satire comics that target hot button issues like terrorism, abortion, LGBT rights, etc, and are quite explicit in their approach. Think along the lines of what Al Goldstein was doing with “Screw” or what Robin Bougie has been doing for years with “Cinema Sewer”and you’d be on the right track. When opening the Blu-ray case, the reverse of the cover art is printed with a comic pulled straight from the movie and carries the title “Tard-gasm.” You get the idea. But these comics aren’t here for mere shock value. Matt O frames our narrative with cartoonist Travis (Adam Boys) – responsible for the comics in the montage via his publication Vulgarian Invasions – getting his hand sawed off after a local businessman/criminal sees himself being depicted poorly (which is to put it lightly). And, naturally, it’s his drawing hand. And the hand is pissed.
Matt O never lets the social commentary get too heavy handed here (sorry), with most of what he’s trying to say regarding free speech and anti-censorship being clear from the get-go and, though pervasive, is never forced upon the viewer. It works best a splatstick, almost 80s Troma-esque genre entry that has very clear DIY ideals which are present even in its wonderfully practical effects, of which there are plenty. It takes a little while to truly get going and some of the characterization and conversation bits tread in the “film school,” overly wordy Kevin Smith/Tarantino realm that has a tendency to irk me, but that’s not what we or Matt O’s film are here for and that’s set aside quick enough and allows for a whole lot of chaos to ensue. Including the aforementioned Homo Dynamus who may be my favorite cinema character of the year. The last half hour of Bloody Knuckles is unabashedly batshit, featuring crushed heads, torn out eyeballs, flung jizz, proper use of acid, and an extended sequence in a red-light bathed S&M club that’s about as close to a 21st century Cruising as we are going to get. This is social commentary cinema at its messiest and genre cinema at its most socially aware. It’s a rare thing. Embrace it.
Artsploitation’s Blu-ray looks solid, for the most part. This is rather obviously shot digitally and likely on the cheap too. I imagine this is faithful to the source and any issues inherent in this transfer are native to whatever format this was shot on. I didn’t notice any sort of glitches/anomalies, but some of the night and/or indoor footage is very dim and can make it hard to fully see what is happening. I don’t think that’s any fault of Artsploitation, just the nature with digital photography. Audio is in 5.1 or 2.0. I preferred the 5.1 track but both sound good, with effects and dialogue balanced. This isn’t a jump scare flick so don’t expect the surrounds to get too much of a workout, but it’s solid.
The supplemental package here is surprisingly packed. Things start with a commentary with Matt O. He’s very talkative and goes through a lot of details regarding the production and the difficulties with it. If you’re an aspiring (or even currently working) indie filmmaker, this is could be very informative. Two of Matt O’s short films – Electric Fence and Adjust Tracking – are here and both offer a similar brand of aggressive genre cinema that’s on display in Bloody Knuckles. Following that, we get an interview with Matt O about his films, a tour of Diabolik DVD’s headquarters and conversations with Robin Bougie and Lunchmeat’s Josh Schaefer, all of which speak to the closeness of the horror/genre cinema community and are welcome extras. Then there’s three short deleted scenes, a trailer for Bloody Knuckles and trailers for other Artsploitation titles. I seldom see packages for studio titles this stacked.
I definitely got more out of Bloody Knuckles than I bargained for. I was (perhaps unfairly) expecting a B-grade, schlock fest that would be a fun way to pass 90 minutes. But I got an impressively forward thinking and sincere piece of splatter cinema that absolutely deserves an audience. It’s fun, brash and wears both its excesses and inspirations with pride. Recommended.