RUN BITCH RUN: The Grindhouse Ain’t What It Used To Be

The Tarantino/Rodriguez team-up Grindhouse wasn’t a box office smash but that didn’t keep it from being influential.  Indeed, it inspired a new wave of interest in the term ‘grindhouse’ for those trying to market their work.  Run Bitch Run is a noteworthy example of this trend, a film that explicitly pays homage to grindhouse classics in terms of plot, visual style and extremity of content.  Unfortunately, it lacks the inspiration and the storytelling chops that defines the best grindhouse fare.

The plot for Run Bitch Run is essentially a mash-up of Last House On The Left and I Spit On Your Grave.  Catholic  school girl Catherine (Cheryl Lyone) and her more rebellious friend Rebecca (Christina De Rosa) are traveling the countryside, selling religious knick-knacks to raise money for their school.  Unfortunately for them, they wander into an area where Lobo (Peter Tahoe, a dead ringer for Scott Stapp) resides.  Lobo is a pimp and a dealer whose cohorts include psychopathic hooker Marla (Ivet Corvea) and stuttering simpleton Clint (Johnny Winschler).

As fate would have it, Catherine and Rebecca arrive at Lobo’s house the exact moment he is killing a hooker who stole drugs from him.  The trio of thugs kidnap them and put them through a campaign of terror that includes rape, beatings and the accidental shooting of Rebecca.  Catherine is mistakenly left for dead by Clint, who lacks the nerve to make sure the job is finished.  She awakens in a hospital, left with nothing but her rosary.  She steals a nurse outfit and a scalpel, sneaking out to find Lobo’s gang and take some well-deserved revenge.

On paper, it’s a great setup for an exercise in vintage grindhouse thrills.  Unfortunately, director/writer Joseph Guzman and co-writer Robert James Hayes II fall short of its potential due to lackluster storytelling.  The script has an obvious enthusiasm for its grisly & sexy content but it plays out in a uninspired and unconvincing fashion, leaning on shock value for all its impact and relying on dreary padding between the shocks.  It’s loaded down with a lot of cringe-inducing “comic relief” bits and the creakiest, least convincing trash-talk dialogue this side of a Rob Zombie script.

The filmmaking is equally problematic.  Guzman’s direction is devoid of the kinetic flair this kind of material needs, resulting in a dull delivery of material that should be gripping.  He also gets lousy, cartoonish performances from his cast, particularly the villains: Tahoe mumbles his lines through a phony-sounding growl while Winschler is the least believable thug in recent memory and Corvea is bombastically awful, particularly during her nostril-flaring “look at me, I’m crazy” scenes.  Lyone tries hard as the heroine but is clearly unequipped to handle the role’s rigors, often lapsing into an unintentionally funny pop-eyed stupor during her character’s trials and tribulations.

Elsewhere, a lack of basic craftsmanship further weakens Run Bitch Run.  The music, credited to three different composers, consists of surf and rockabilly sounds that are often at odds with the onscreen action.  The editing lacks any sort of flow, frequently fading to black between scenes and sapping the pace of its momentum.  The photography’s decent and Guzman manages a few inspired bits of carnage in the last twenty minutes but these flashes of energy can’t save the film.  Even the gore is weak, relying mostly on hastily-done “aftermath” effects in place of the on-camera kind.

In short, Run Bitch Run is pretty dispiriting stuff.  Like a lot of current straight-to-video fare that claims a vintage horror or exploitation heritage, it seems like the filmmakers just wanted to play at imitating their favorites instead of trying to break new ground (or at least update the genre).   If the nuevo-grindhouse trend continues along these lines, this style of filmmaking will never enjoy a second golden era.

WARNING: the following trailer is totally Not Safe For Work:

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