There aren't many films in the world that make me worried that I will be sent to hell purely for touching the DVD box, much less actually watching. “Jesus Chris: Serial Rapist” would have to be one such title, and although I've never actually seen that one, it now has good company with the new British Christploitation epic “Brutal Jesus and the House of Wasted Youth”. And in order to provide a review for the readers of this site, I have put my immortal soul in jeopardy and watched this sick, twisted little film twice, and enjoyed the heck out of it. You see the lengths Horrorview staffers go to for you?
The narrative is pretty simple revenge/slasher territory, with the jaw-dropping twist of having the demented psycho at the heart of the story being Our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ himself. Well, sort of. The story concerns a group of drug-fuelled teenage wasters who live together in house on a quiet suburban street, and who terrorise the neighbourhood on a daily basis. One day, a strange, bearded man wearing a white robe and carrying a bible knocks on their door. Amused because the guy looks like Jesus, the drugged-up teenager lets him into the house so he can party with them. Well, you can't not let him in, can you? Plus, if they run out of alcohol, he can always turn water into wine! Alas, Jesus has other matters on his mind, and he sets about mercilessly punishing the teens for their sins by brutally murdering them all!
A semi-feature (it runs around 45 minutes) shot in 3 days, “Brutal Jesus” is notable for its heroic almost non-existent budget. Co-director Nik Box claims that the film was made for a mere Ten English pounds, which was spent on a sheet for Jesus' robe, and a copy of the bible. Whilst many no-budget films are severely hampered by their lack of funds with ambitions that way outstrip their resources, “Brutal Jesus” manages to turn most of those limitations into virtues. The film has been shot to look like a lost low-budget 1970s exploitation picture, with bags of “Grindhouse”-esque print damage added, missed frames, jittering picture, and a muffled and claustrophobic sound design. The result is a film which recalls wonderful memories of watching beat-up 16mm prints of cheapo films in seedy back-street cinemas. It's a film that immediately made me want to have a damn good shower afterwards, and I mean that in the best possible way.
For the first half of its runtime, “Brutal Jesus” follows a standard slasher-movie pattern: Here's a group of teens in a room, in comes Jesus, death ensues, rinse and repeat. Then around twenty minutes in, the film switches into a flashback detailing the back story of “Jesus” and his history with the gang. Without wanting to give too much away, this is the point where the film offers viewers a get-out against accusations of blasphemy; useful should you get to the pearly gates and find that support of “Brutal Jesus” may be damning you to eternity in hell! In short: is this really Jesus, or just some long-haired dude with mental health problem, who may have found religion but hasn't entirely understood it? After that, it's business as usual for the last 10 minutes.
Whilst “Brutal Jesus” is an impressive achievement for the budget and schedule, there are moments where the lack of funds does make itself felt. As noted above, the budget was spent entirely on the robe and bible, with no money spent on fake blood or gore. Consequently, Jesus' preferred method of murder is strangulation (with the occasional suffocation) – brutal and intense yes, but also lacking in variety. It's not hard to shake the feeling that a little more splatter could have made the film that little bit more enjoyable. Also the film does err towards being repetitive with Jesus the only central character and all other characters only introduced in order to be immediately killed, making it hard to really care about anyone. The dialogue has a loose, improvised feel which works well, but can feel meandering and unfocused – when it's audible that is.
Still, these are fairly minor quibbles with the film, and are in keeping with that strived-for 70's exploitation feel. Generally the relaxed, naturalistic performances are rather better than I'm used to seeing at this budget level (and Steve Newton as the titular character is great, particularly in the flashback sequence), and there's even a little nudity thrown in late on. Speaking from experience, a common difficulty with no-budget film-making is having a single-camera set-up, making fluid and dynamic editing a real achievement. “Brutal Jesus” had the luxury of shooting with 3 mini-dv cameras, and this certainly helps the quality of the cutting to rise above many of its peers. Particularly strong is the electronic sound design with its murky John Carpenter/Simon Bowswell-esque moody synth sounds adding considerably to the mood. Oh, and there's a great primary-coloured opening title sequence too.
“Brutal Jesus and the House of Wasted Youth” is an entertaining quicky, atmospheric and shot through with a sense of dark wit. It certainly won't be everyone's cup of tea, but it's a truly independent rough-hewn gem. If you like no-budget indie films, or potentially blasphemous exploitation movies, “Brutal Jesus” is worth looking out for. Just don't blame me if you wind up with an eternity in hell as a result!
To find out more about “Brutal Jesus”, check out the official facebook page at facebook.com/brutaljesus. It is currently available as a super-limited edition run of only 30(!) copies, although a general unlimited release is due very soon through Amazon.com.