Movie Review: ‘Throg’

By Stacey Longo

Throg

I can promise you you’ve never seen anything quite like Throg (2004), a medieval dark comedy about an idiot who is destined to travel through time for the mere entertainment of a bunch of bored gods on Mount Olympus. Our hero, Throg himself, is a numbskull, yet he still seems to come out on top, despite the havoc that his bumbling ways wreaks.

We first meet Throg (Dana K. Lee) in a mental hospital, where he’s being tortured by Dr. Braun (Stephanie Hughes) and her demented henchman, Billy (Wayne Woodbury). Hughes showcases her stupendous overacting abilities in this role, causing one person who was watching the screening with me to whisper, “I don’t understand. Why didn’t Divine get top billing?” She’s a delight as the twisted tormenter, and makes Nurse Ratched look like a pussycat in comparison. Throg’s treatment at the mental hospital leads to a series of flashbacks, over which the major plot points of this fine film unfold.

We see Throg as a young man, at the moment when his adoptive parents abandon him. Before leaving Throg, his father (Throg the Elder, played by Dale T. Phillips) experiences a moment of tenderness. “Take this,” he says, handing his son a large stone. “It’s the rock we found you under.” This rock becomes a running gag and plot device throughout the movie.

The audience is then treated to a scene atop Mount Olympus, in which the gods decide, for fun, to each choose an avatar on Earth to represent them, and fight to the death. (Which, I’m sure, you and your friends do for giggles all the time.) There’s also a fool hanging out on Mount Olympus (missing from my Greek mythology studies, but hey, I’ll go with it in the interest of fine cinema), and he decides to insert himself into the game for his own amusement. The last avatar left alive wins (or, more accurately, the god that picked him wins). The avatars die horrific deaths one by one, until all that remain are Ares’ choice, Urshag the Destroyer, and the Fool’s avatar. That’s right: it’s poor, hapless Throg.

Over the course of the flashbacks, the audience watches Urshag pursue Throg through centuries of time, where it’s determined that Throg is neither a hero nor passably competent, but remarkably lucky. But his luck can’t hold out forever, and the Fool appears on Earth to help Throg hone his battle skills. What follows is a sidesplitting dance/music montage that makes every minute of this movie that you sat through up until this point completely worth it. Matt Power’s (who also directed, as Matthew T. Power?)  performance as the Fool is fabulously campy, and this sequence ranks up there with some of the finest Monty Python skits in its goofiness.

In the meantime, Urshag has a series of entertaining near misses in his quest to kill Throg. The flashbacks end as we see Throg’s admittance into the asylum. It turns out that when he’s confined to the mental hospital, Urshag can’t find him. This creates a bit of a quandary for the great destroyer, who finds that he’s losing his evil powers because he can’t find Throg. What’s a bad guy to do? He winds up responding to an infomercial for a complete makeover, and recreates himself as a hideous demonic clown.

While Urshag is discovering his inner John Wayne Gacy, Throg manages to escape the mental hospital, and after a “groundbreaking” (that’s the same as “bizarre,” right?) animation sequence, finds himself in modern times, working at White Meat Castle. That’s where Urshag finds him for their ultimate showdown. Action, gore, and hilarity abound as Throg and Urshag duel in a final light saber fight, which (spoiler alert!) one of them wins, quite by accident.

The movie pays homage to a wide range of cultural icons. In addition to Monty Python, you’ll spot nods to Xena: Warrior Princess, Highlander, Excalibur, and The Rocky Horror Picture Show, among many, many others. (You’ll find yourself shouting out movie references frequently throughout the film. “Better Off Dead! “Empire Strikes Back!” I’m sure there’s a drinking game to be found in there somewhere.) In the interest of full disclosure, I should tell you that I’m acquainted with Phillips, so I might be biased, but honestly, his performance as Throg the Elder is one of the best in the film. He channels his inner Shatner, delivering witty lines with such gusto that you’ll laugh out loud.

Throg actually won Best Cinematography at the 2004 Boston International Film Festival, so obviously, I’m not the only person who loved this thing. Absurd, hilarious, and silly, I can’t recommend Throg enough. It’s available now to rent or buy on Amazon. This low-budget horror/comedy/fantasy flick is absolutely worth an hour and a half of your life.


 Editor’s Note:

An interview with Throg director Matthew T. Power is here.

 

The man behind the ‘Guy Who Kills People’ talks about what inspired his screenplay

The Man Behind the ‘Guy Who Kills People’ Talks about What Inspired His Screenplay

by Jason Harris

Screenwriter Ryan A. Levin’s script for Some Guy Who Kill Peoplewas inspired by his short film, “The Fifth.” His short film only came about because he had written it for fun and wanted to avoid it becoming just another file on his computer, he said.

“I wanted to see it come to life.  I had no aspirations to be a director, and still don’t, but I ended up writing, producing and directing the short film.”

Some Guy Who Kills People

As he traveled around the festival circuit and saw the positive reactions, he started thinking about an everyday guy who happens to be a serial killer and wondered if he could expand the main character’s world. Through brainstorming, he slowly developed his character’s background, family life, friends, and motives for killing. By developing his short into a movie, his character changed and it allowed him to let go of the character from the short film.

“Ultimately, while the short and the feature bear little to no resemblance to each other, there would be no Some Guy Who Kills People without “The Fifth.”  Fortunately, our distributor, Anchor Bay, was cool enough to include “The Fifth” on the Some Guy Who Kills People DVD.”

The movie contains bullying, which came about because of “creative need.”

“Ken, the killer in Some Guy Who Kills People, needed a reason to kill his victims.  In early drafts, he was just a serial killer who chose victims at random.”

The script shifted to Ken focusing on victims who treated others poorly, and then, ultimately, he began killing people who had done him wrong, Levin said.

“News about childhood bullying and suicides just started popping up on the news as we were in pre-production on this film, so while it was not intentional, I knew I hadn’t gone too far in scripting the often sad ramifications of bullying.”

Levin wrote the screenplay between 2007 and the end of 2009. It took about two and a half years to write the script, but it wasn’t a constant writing effort. There were many breaks “as other things came up” which caused him not to look at the script for six months or more.

“Ultimately, this worked to my benefit, as it allowed me to come to the script with fresh eyes each time.”

The movie stars Kevin Corrigan, Barry Bostwick, and Karen Black.

“It was, and continues to be, surreal,” Levin said about Corrigan, Bostwick, and Black being in the movie. “Kevin was someone we approached immediately for the lead role, and we just crossed our fingers he would find something in the script he liked enough to say ‘yes.’  He knew he would essentially be working for free, not to mention working in LA, away from his family in NYC. I imagine it’s a lot easier to take those few weeks off and live elsewhere when you’re making real money, but he wasn’t getting that from us. ”

Levin never pictured Bostwick and Black in their roles and was shocked that they auditioned for the movie considering “their credits and experience.”

“It was perfectly clear to Jack Perez (the director), Lisa Essary (casting director) and myself that we wanted them, and that if we did indeed land them, our movie was headed in the right direction.”

These actors took their characters and elevated them to levels beyond anything that was on the page, he said.

“They are three fearless actors who gave everything they had to this movie, and I can’t thank them enough.”

He was living in New York City when he decided to wanted to write for television and knew he had to get a production assistant job to be able to do that. These “jobs are actually quite hard to come by, as they are essentially the jobs that get you in the door on a production.”

“I sent resumes to every single show imaginable, super-eager to work for any of them. Through sheer good fortune, I ended up knowing someone who knew someone who got me an interview to be a PA on Scrubs, my favorite show at the time.”

When he got the production assistant job, he thought he had “made it” even though he considers “being a PA sucks.”

“I was on the show, I was writing in my free time, but I just wanted to move up the ladder as quickly as I could.  I became the writers’ PA, then writers’ assistant then script coordinator. I knew the show runner would never promote me to a full-time writer because of a policy he had against doing so.  But I also knew that if I could prove to him I was a capable writer, I could write an episode.  Fortunately, that’s what happened.  I wrote one episode in season 5, and was told I could return as script coordinator the following season to write another one.”

He didn’t return to work on the sixth season of Scrubs instead he went out looking for a full-time writing position.

“It took a couple of years of close-calls, of working on web series and pitching ideas, but, ultimately, I got a job on a Disney show called I’m In The Band, which ran for two years, and was far better, funnier and more creative than a lot of shows on network TV, which I’m allowed to say because I didn’t create the show.”

The writing staff for The Simpsons, seasons three through seven, and the playwright/screenwriter Martin McDonagh are writers that have inspired Levin. He loves McDonagh’s film, In Bruges.

“I’ve always been drawn to the darker content – always loved horror films and dark comedies, Fargo and Better Off Dead – and I was blown away by how [McDonagh] took these seemingly morbid stories and injected them with some of the funniest characters, situations and dialogue I’d ever heard.  McDonagh’s ability to find the comedy in such dark material through characters with very specific points-of-views and his ability to seamlessly blend such different tones is what I can only dream of being able to accomplish.”

Levin is working on another Disney show and developing several features.

“The features are in various stages – from third drafts to basic outlines – and I keep moving back and forth between them.  The great thing is I have several ideas about which I’m very excited; however, I really need to just focus on one of them, see it to completion, and then move on.  If I don’t, none of them will ever get completed.”

The Some Guy Who Kills People DVD can be purchased through Amazon, click here.