Incredible Violence. 2019.
Directed & Written by G. Patrick Condon.
Starring M.J. Kehler, Stephen Oates, Michael Worthman, Kimberley Drake, Erin Mick, Meghan Hancock, Allison Moira Kelly, Patrick Foran, Ruth Lawrence, & Stephen Lush.

The Hunting Party

Not Rated / 92 minutes

Comedy / Horror

★★★★
Father Son Holy Gore - Incredible Violence - Stephen Oates as G. Patrick CondonI love and rep (hard) for Newfoundland and Labrador films, or even just films and television with anybody from Newfoundland and Labrador in them— shoutout to Bryan Fuller’s Hannibal for having not one but TWO people from my province in the cast. Being born and raised on the island, I find it hard not to want the best for the artistic community here, even when a particular film / show isn’t anything overly special. That’s what makes it doubly nice when something from the province is genuinely great like Incredible Violence, a fun, meta-fictional romp through comedic horror territory from director-writer G. Patrick Condon.

The film centres mainly on two characters: a fictional Condon (Stephen Oates) and an actor named Grace (M.J. Kehler). Condon’s borrowed a lot of money from a shadowy organisation and wasted it all without shooting a film. He concocts an ill-fated plan, with the help of a bartender pouring his drinks, to lock a bunch of actors in a house and shoot himself murdering them like a homemade slasher flick. He enlists aspiring actor Grace and several others for free, then brings them all to a secluded house in the woods.
If only it were so evilly easy, or painless.

Condon’s screenplay is a fantastic slice of satire, turning the lens on himself— figuratively and literally— by interrogating the very nature of making movies. Incredible Violence lovingly questions the horror genre, and film making as a whole. It digs into celebrity and fame, as well as society’s hunger for them, and how the film industry’s artistry is failed by its concern with economics. If there were a thesis for Condon’s film it might be that film making as a capitalist industry, cheap horror, and pornography are all the same elaborate scheme. And while deeper things are going on below the surface, it stays lively with a deliciously bloody, dark sense of humour.
Father Son Holy Gore - Incredible Violence - The Milgram Group

“I fucking hate movies”

Father Son Holy Gore - Incredible Violence - Erin Mick & Stephen OatesMetafiction is a significant, if not central aspect of Incredible Violence, and pops up most uniquely in terms of language. The language of film making is often inherently violent, and, as such, is the language of horror. An editor cuts up scenes, just as a director does when they call ‘cut’ to end one. A director shoots his subjects to capture them on camera, the lens like a gun barrel. Condon illustrates this violent cinematic language best in the scene where Oates, as his fictional stand-in, practises his slasher routine in front of the mirror, quipping one-liners you’d hear in 1980s horror comedies. “Youve been cut,” the fictional Condon growls after figuratively slicing up one of his cast— or, equating this with our theory of violent film language, one of his victims. We can view the director’s role in film making as being a killer of sorts: cutting scenes and even whole parts, staging scenes the way a murderer does with his kills, blocking actors like a killer would the dead bodies of his victims (starts to draw comparisons with Lars Von Trier’s The House That Jack Built.) Another scene features the fictional Condon murdering Audrey yet she keeps refusing to die. If we again continue the violent film language theory, Audrey’s death requires a number of takes and Condon becomes increasingly frustrated with each one as if dealing with a stubborn actress, not a victim fighting for her life.

The use of the Milgram experiment reference is a key to connecting certain elements. One of the more important things the Milgram experiment reference reveals is a relation of the film industry’s capitalist side to the potential for fascism being explored via the experiment. Incredible Violence essentially posits that capitalism in art is a form of fascism. This atmosphere of fascism is propped up by issues of class divide in the screenplay— class collaboration is a major component of fascist social architecture.
Audrey (Erin Mick) marks a clear divide between who is / isn’t a genuine actor based solely on where, or if, someone went to “acting school.” Audrey presenting Grace with the Greek chorus masks grounds class division in material reality. The masks become those of class, obscuring anyone behind an illusion of being bourgeois, like Grace who’s deemed not a ‘real actor’ but who can disappear behind one of the masks to appear just like any other actor. It actually saves Grace that she doesn’t belong to the higher class of university-educated actors because it allows her to break free from the obedience of the other classically-trained actors, giving her a chance to be the genre’s fabled Final Girl.Father Son Holy Gore - Incredible Violence - Celebrity AutopsyReturning to the Milgram experiment it brings up compelling points about obedience in cinema behind the camera, in that actors will do anything to get ahead, even feed into their own exploitation. “If the script says so” leads to all kinds of terrifying results after the actors are gathered in that house under Condon’s murderous Big Brother watch. Like the Milgram experiment, the Incredible Violence experiment lays bare how far actors will go on their own with very little instructions from a director, all in the pursuit of fame. Grace’s roommate, though callous and largely indifferent to Grace’s career, makes a point about professional actors working on a “student film” versus “real films.” Grace doesn’t even know if she’ll be paid before accepting a role in Condon’s film, an all-too genuine slice of reality. We, as creatives, often hear the old line that there’s no money being offered but such-and-such project is ‘great for exposure’— like exposure can pay the rent or put food on the table, like creative labour isn’t real labour. Elizabeth (Kimberley Drake) similarly gives a monologue later, which I’ll come back to again shortly, where she mentions not being paid properly for a shoot and receiving an “honorarium” instead. Actors become a cog in the larger capitalist machinery at work by feeding into their own exploitation, in part because it’s the only option: you either work, or you don’t, no matter what type of pay, or lack thereof, is being offered.
So, yes, actors will do anything to get ahead, but do they really have another choice?

Celebrity Autopsy pulls together issues of fame and identity by focusing on society’s deep, unsettling obsession with celebrity to the point of the macabre. The program is such a goofy tongue-in-cheek addition to everything, expanding on the aptly named Milgram Group behind everything, and positioning itself as a glimpse of TV’s future, like the next logical step from reality TV to a literal autopsy of a celebrity corpse. Reality TV and even social media serve as a figurative living autopsy of celebrity life, allowing us to exhume the inner lives of famous people right down to the skeletons in their closets— another commodity to buy, to devour, to use. Celebrity Autopsy viciously lampoons a capitalist society’s fascination with celebrity, rightfully shaming us for consuming a creative product and then, effectively, consuming the creators along with it.

Condon’s screenplay intricately connects pornography and horror to confront how women are exploited in the entertainment industry as a whole. The first kill inside the house is a darkly comic example. The fictional Condon murders one of his actresses then rips open her shirt and shakes her naked breasts for the camera to make sure his modern slasher flick has the prerequisite amount of female nudity. This moment is echoed when Elizabeth, in the same monologue as I mentioned previously, talks about acting on a shoot that just ended up being “tits and blood everywhere.” Elizabeth’s monologue is significant because it directly links the horror genre and pornography as she relates her own experiences being a woman exploited in horror films to the tragic tale of performer Alex Jordan, whose life ended by suicide in 1995 after only a few short years in the porn business. The story of Jordan’s demise is an indictment of the entertainment industry’s nasty treatment of women, and Elizabeth paralleling her actor’s journey with Jordan’s shows that dramatic actresses are exploited in much the same way as actresses who do porn. The bottom line? Women and their bodies are exploited for the purposes of capital and entertainment, whether they have sex onscreen or not.Father Son Holy Gore - Incredible Violence - Drama Masks

“I fucking love movies”

Father Son Holy Gore - Incredible Violence - Bloody GraceCondon delivers near genius satire here. His willingness to put himself in the hot seat, albeit fictionally, is interesting because it makes the whole story feel all the more personal, no more matter how excitingly bizarre things get by the end. He understands the constant microaggressions artists must endure as they watch their art devalued by people who don’t understand it— we see it when the fictional Condon, or “Condom” as one woman garbles his name, has to listen to his film’s title get mangled into Invincible Violence and the much more hilarious Incredible Vikings. Any film with an opening scene containing the line “I fucking hate movies” and with “I fucking love movies” as a coda genuinely grasps the bittersweet emotions wrapped up in being a professional creative.

Incredible Violence is open to many readings, and works just fine as a fun postmodern slasher horror, too. The screenplay taps into the idea that without freedom from rigid structure and corporate capitalist involvement, art dies, and artists kill themselves/each other in the process of making it— even the director, the fictional Condon meant as intended slasher, dies during the making of his own film. This is the great horror of art as commerce, turning directors and actors into a factory line of products, a litany of bloody corpses crowding the screen, rather than a piece of cinema.

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