Film festival report: FDR: American Badass kicks butt

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FDR: American BadassFDR: American Badass was a huge crowd-pleaser at Friday night’s International Horror and Science Fiction Film Festival. This cross-genre comedy/horror/sci-fi film revises history and has enough irreverent humor in it to offend nearly everyone, but that didn’t stop the packed crowd at the festival screening from loving every minute of it.

This fact-twisted version of Franklin Delano Roosevelt (played by Barry Bostwick) has the 32nd President confined to a wheelchair after contracting polio from a werewolf bite. Yes, you get polio from werewolves. It turns out the beast was German and that werewolf versions of Hitler, Mussolini and Japanese Emperor Hirohito are conspiring to turn Americans into werewolves by placing their tainted blood into imported booze just as FDR prepares to end prohibition. If this sounds inane, it is -– but it is also incredibly entertaining and original.

FDR reminded me of a full length episode of Funny or Die’s Drunk History, with the same sort of sharp writing, great actors and absurdly hilarious gags. Barry Bostwick has a striking resemblance to the real FDR and he shines in this performance that takes the straight-laced satire style of Leslie Nielsen (see Airplane) to the next level of weird and wacky. There are also fun performances by Bruce McGill, Ray Wise and Kevin Sorbo as laid-back presidential guru Abraham Lincoln.

FDR: American BadassThe werewolves are campier than Teen Wolf and the movie also pays loving tribute to the ’60s corny Batman television show. During a Q&A session after the Friday screening, writer Ross Patterson (who also stars as Cleavon Buford in the film) claimed, “we set out to make the most ridiculous movie ever,” and I think they may have succeeded.  The next festival screening of FDR is 9:20 p.m. on April 4, and you can get a taste by watching the VERY GRAPHIC Red Band Trailer.         

Another Friday highlight from the combined Phoenix Film Festival and IHSFFF was a live action short called Play by Play, created by Afterworks which is part of the Pixar University department. It is a fantastic little film that addresses childhood bullying in a thoughtful and very entertaining way.  Good Luck, Mr. Gorski was another fun short that answers the questions surrounding the strange comments Neil Armstrong made after his first steps on the moon.  You can see both these shorts at their next showings at 11:50 AM on April 1, at the Live Action Shorts A screening.

The other feature film I took in Friday evening was Below Zero, starring Edward Furlong (of Terminator 2 fame). This is a convoluted rehash of Misery and Fargo involving a screenwriter who has never written a screenplay traveling to a meat freezer in the middle of nowhere to be locked inside so he can overcome his writer’s block. Signe Olynyk, who wrote the screenplay for this mess, was grasping for straws with this story and trying to write about a writer who can’t write may not have been the best idea for a horror flick. Creepy horror stalwart actor Michael Berryman does a great job as the killer in this film, but I recommend giving Below Zero the cold shoulder.

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